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Heart for the Homeless
1st March, 2014
With the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing homelessness in Australia has grown by 17 per cent since 2006 and an estimated 105,000 people are homeless each night, the need for assistance is growing. But how to get your unwanted goods into the hands of someone who really needs it? Enter Heart for the Homeless, a new website that connects people who find they have goods to donate as they downsize into a smaller property or simply move house, with local charities. "There's no silver bullet to homelessness says founder Leighton Walters, a former real estate agent. "If we can creatively connect supplies to those in need I believe we could see their lives significantly impacted...Rather than throwing away their disused or unloved clothes or furniture, we are encouraging all tenants and homeowners to think about donating their unwanted goods to someone less fortunate in the community...". To donate, simply register your details on the website and they'll arrange for a local charity to collect your donation free of charge, either then passing it on to someone in need or selling it to fund crisis counselling or emergency housing. The organisation recently launched a new digital awareness campaign "It's Your Move" featuring a 60 second stop animation video Cardboard City created from more than 2,500 photos of 450 cardboard cut-outs. To see it, head to www.vimeo.com/81143989.
- DAVID ADAMS
CASTING THE NET...
Letters of Note
10th January, 2014
Recently gathered into a book of the same name by creator Shaun Usher, Letters of Note is a blog which features "fascinating" letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos from history. Written by names which in many cases are instantly recognisable (everyone from CS Lewis to Albert Einstein, Queen Victoria and Walt Disney), some of the missives are poignant, some are humorous and some are of historic significance - but as the website claims, all are "deserving of a wider audience". While the letters - which can present new insights into the character of people we all feel like we've known - are presented in the chronological order in which they were posted, the site has a handy search engine where you can simply enter the name of the person you're interested in. There's more than 900 letters on the site, some of which have been sent in by readers, and there's a list of the most read letters on the homepage which can make a good kicking off point.
- DAVID ADAMS
8th November, 2013
Launched on the 3rd November - one of the days designated as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, this website is about encouraging believers to set aside time to prayer for those who are suffering because of their faith. Created by persecuted church ministry The Voice of the Martyrs in the US, it features a series of prayer requests posted by the organisation relating to individuals or people groups who are facing persecution around the world and enables users to post their own prayer in response. In a recent interview with Mission Network News, Todd Nettleton, of The Voice of the Martyrs, said the idea came out of the comments and prayers people responded with they post prayer requests on the internet. "And others would be encouraged by that, and add their own prayer in the next comment, and so on," he said. "At times we could even print out those prayers and show them to the Christians in hostile and restricted nations, and they were incredibly blessed to see very tangibly that Christians around the world hadn’t forgotten them and were lifting them up in prayer. We want iCommitToPray.com to be a site dedicated to that kind of prayer and encouragement.” At the time we looked - only a few days after the site was launched, 3,692 prayers had been posted. The site can be searched by country or keyword and you must register to leave a prayer on the site (you can delete your prayers as well if you wish) but you can browse the prayers without doing so. And, yes, there is an accompanying prayer app for the iPhone.
- DAVID ADAMS
Your Faith Your Finance
24th October, 2013
Providing a platform to explore "ethical and spiritual questions around the use of money", Your Faith Your Finance: A guide to money, faith and ethics has been jointly developed by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) and Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) to meet what they say was a growing demand from faith groups for a site addressing such issues. Much of the information contained on the site can be applicable to either individuals or faith communities and while the site was developed specifically for a UK audience, there's lessons and advice here than may be helpful where-ever you live. Subjects covered include everything from a look at what the Bible says about wealth and poverty, through to paying taxes, ethical banking and investing (particularly useful are features like a list of questions to ask your bank about how they invest), and questions to ask yourself before you spend (particularly given the rise of movements like Fairtrade). It doesn't provide comprehensive information on all the subjects covered but gives a terrific general overview of some of the issues Christians should be thinking about when it comes to both their personal finances but also the finances of their church. A timely and handy guide.
- DAVID ADAMS
1st October, 2013
Ever tried to get your head around the vast distances of space and, if you're like me, failed dismally? Distance to Mars is a website designed to help you get a feel for just how big the universe is by showing graphically the space between earth and Mars (and incidentally showing what a great feat it was to land a rover on the red planet). Simple but effective, the website uses what creators David Paliwoda and Jesse Williams call a "motion infographic" to show the distance between Earth and Mars if the former were 100 pixels wide. Press the arrow and presto, you're first taken to the moon before embarking on the long journey (150 days using current space technologies, says the website) to Mars itself. And that's it. Go on, take a look and have some fun.
- DAVID ADAMS
2nd June, 2013
What, if you could, would you say to your future self? FutureMe gives you the chance to do so by presenting the opportunity to write a letter to yourself which can be delivered to your selected email address at a nominated date in the next 50 years (although most letters we saw are to be delivered within the next few years). You can choose to make the letter either private or public (while this means it will be available for anyone visiting the site to see, it will be anonymous). The public letters - which have been recently delivered to their recipients, meaning they were written a few years back - do make for interesting reading as people talk about their hopes and fears for their future, seek reassurance that their present difficulties will be worth the struggle or simply provide a snapshot of life as it was when they tapped their message out on a computer keyboard. FutureMe has been around for quite a few years - spawning a number of imitator websites over that time and, according to the website, even a movie, The Lake House - so the stockpile of letters is quite large. Just one word of warning - make sure you choose an email address that you're still likely to have when it comes time for your letter to be delivered.
- DAVID ADAMS
1st April, 2013
Free Biblical pronunciation guides
So you're reading some Scripture in church this coming Sunday but have no idea how to pronounce some of the names in the passage you're reading? Don't worry, help is at hand. Today we're taking a look at a couple of websites you can turn to for help. First up is Net Ministries' 'Biblical Words Pronunciation Guide'. Easy to navigate, just select the first letter of the word you want to pronounce and then pick the word from the list. You'll see a phonetic representation and will hear the pronunication through your speakers. Howjsay.com is a general dictionary but also contains many Biblical words - just submit the word you're looking for and then, when it appears, move the cursor over it to hear it spoken. The Bible Workshop's Bible Pronunciation Tool (website pictured) is also worth a look. To see references and phonetic spellings of some of the more obscure Biblical words, head to Better Days Are Coming's Bible pronunciation chart - there are also links you can follow through to general online English dictionaries where the words are spoken aloud. These are just a few of the many examples on the net - and you may need to adjust, given many are spoken with a distinctly American accent. If you have a particular favorite, let us know!
- DAVID ADAMS
23rd January, 2013
A simple yet effective website, this brings the Bible to life via an interactive atlas. Just enter the name of the Biblical book or chapter in which you're interested into the search box on the home page and then watch as the the map comes to life complete with markers highlighting places mentioned in the text. Click on the color-coded markers - which could represent everything from a city to a people group or geographic feature - and you'll access a commentary and some pictures about the feature in question. The site, which uses Google maps, was created by a US-based ministry (as at the time of writing we're uncertain whether it is still being updated but it is a useful tool as is). Be warned that not all chapters in the Bible are covered and sometimes you do get some weird results but, all in all, this a great way to get more out of your Bible reading. There's even a choice of Bible versions - the English Standard Version or the King James Version.
- DAVID ADAMS
28th December, 2012
A massive resource for pastors and others looking for ideas and inspiration, SermonCentral has more than 150,000 sermons, illustrations and dramas to browse through. Not a particularly pretty site to look at, the focus here is very much on simple navigation - not a bad thing if your deadline's looming! The content is largely US-oriented - not surprising given that the contributors are generally based there - but easily adaptable for any context. A range of denominations are represented. Much of the content on the site is free but, for a fee, there is the option of joining SermonCentral PRO which provides access to additional materials such as videos and PowerPoints as well as other features not available to everyone. You can also become a contributor to the site by uploading your own sermons (upload 40 or more and you'll receive a free year's subscription to SermonCentral PRO) and there are plenty of avenues for you to give feedback on the sermons you've come across. While, of course, nothing can replace reading the Bible yourself or spending time in prayer when preparing to speak, this is a great site for those who love tossing around different ideas and a terrific way to find that little extra something, whether it's for a sermon to be preached on a Sunday or a small group discussion.
- DAVID ADAMS
21st October, 2012
Biblical Archaeology Society
The website of the Biblical Archaeology Society is a great resource for anyone with an interest in archaeological discoveries relating to the history of the Old and New Testaments. The society was founded in 1974 as a "nonprofit, nondenominational, educational organisation dedicated to the dissemination of information about archaeology in the Bible lands". Alongside sections featuring articles on the latest relevant news, discovered artifacts and locations, book reviews and scholarly discussions (some of which can only be accessed by subscribers to the society's flagship publication, the Biblical Archaeology Review), one of the most interesting parts of the website is the 'Find A Dig' section. Here you can see a list of current digs taking place in the Middle East and Classical World which have a bearing on Biblical archaeology (they include contact details so if you happened to be in the area...). There's also information about the latest related exhibitions and events taking place around the world and a comprehensive library of 6,600 articles from Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review and Archaeology Odyssey magazines (although you need to pay an annual subscription fee to access this) and you can sign up to receive a newsletter and download free ebooks on a variety of topics. Relatively easy to navigate, this is something of a treasure trove whether you're a scholar or someone with no more than a passing interest in the subject.
- DAVID ADAMS
3rd August, 2012
Growing Faith Kids!
A recently launched interactive website aimed at younger children, Growing Faith Kids! is based around three children's books published by the Australian-based Growing Faith - Fiz the Flying Fox, the Colour Worms series, and Panda: Home. Click through a symbol of each of three books (or series in the case of Colour Worms) to access a video, games and activities based on the books' contents. The website, which features very simple navigation and is free from all third party advertising, forms part of the larger Growing Faith website, an initiative of Australia's Youthworks Media which aims to "equip Christian parents with resources to lead their families wisely through the often complex issues that daily life brings". There's a broad range of articles on this larger site which, although Youthworks is an Anglican agency, says it's not aimed at any particular denomination. The articles deal with issues ranging from teenage sexuality to praying for your family and a plethora of tips about raising children as well as a range of film, book, website and TV reviews. You can also sign up for a weekly newsletter containing tips and advice for parents and carers.
- DAVID ADAMS
26th June, 2012
Run the Race
Looking for a daily Bible reading site with a bit of a difference while watching the London Olympics? Approved by Christian Olympic Games outreach organisation More than Gold, Run the Race provides daily Bible readings and associated commentary around a sporting theme for the duration of the upcoming Games. The site's been up and running since March and many of the daily readings - which cover the period from 27th July to 12th August are already on the site. You can receive the readings during the Games by following the site on Facebook or Twitter, by email or simply by visiting the site itself (the author of the commentaries, Alastair Kirk, has also published them in a book which can be ordered via the site and could make a good resource for small groups). The initial readings centre around perhaps the best known sport-related passage in the Bible - Hebrews 12:1-2, the passage about running the race set before us - while later readings look at other passages in the Bible which relate to sport. Along with commentaries, the site also includes details of what events are on each day. Kirk, who works for a Christian charity, says he came up with the idea simply to "embrace the excitement of the Olympics whilst encouraging Christians in their 'race of faith'." He says there are important lessons which can be learned through the principals of physical exercise.
- DAVID ADAMS
22nd April, 2012
Google Art Project
Would you love to explore the art collection of the Palace of Versailles in France but can't get there? What about that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in London or South Africa's Rock Art Gallery? The Google Art Project is an initiative between Google and more than 150 'art partners' located in 40 countries around the world including six in Australia - the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Melbourne Museum and Griffith University's Rock Art Research Centre. Under the scheme selected artworks held by the partners - which include galleries and historic sites - are available to view on the web. Version two of the project - which followed the launch of version one in February, 2011 - features more than 30,000 works of art including paintings, sculptures, drawings and architectural projects available for viewing in such high resolution that details can be seen which are not normally visible to the naked eye. The website also features 'user galleries' in which registered users can create galleries of their favorite works. Searches able to be carried out based on the work's title, the artist or the location where it's held. But beware, just as when visiting an art gallery, it can be easy to lose track of time!
- DAVID ADAMS
18th March, 2012
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Can't get to Jerusalem but interested in finding out more about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? A new website was unveiled this month which provides an in-depth look at the church including an easily navigable 360 degree virtual tour of the basilica with some stunning imagery. There's also a detailed timeline of the church's history - from the time the area was used as a burial ground through to the Crusaders' transformation of the church and the arrival of the Franciscans in 1335 - and a comprehensive chronology of archaeological survey conducted on the site. The website is the work of Custody of the Holy Land, an organisation of Franciscan monks (formally known as the Order of Friars Minor, a religious order of the Catholic Church), who aim to "preserve, study and render the places where the Christian faith originated, welcoming and proclaim the marvels of the love of the Most High Almighty and Good Lord who for our sake took on our humanity for the salvation of all people". The website, among a number they've established looking at various sites in the Holy Land as part of a major project to provide a website for all of the properties in their care, also has sections explaining why this is a significant site for Christians, information on some of the key people who have visited the church and details of some of the church's celebrations as well as a useful set of links from where to further explore the area. Well worth spending some time exploring.
- DAVID ADAMS
15th December, 2011
It's all about "Ideas Worth Spreading". Founded in 1984, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is centred on two annual conferences - one in Long Beach and Palm Springs and another in Edinburgh - which, along with a growing number of other initiatives coming under the TED banner, are aimed at bringing together the "world's most fascinating thinkers and doers". Each speaker at the conferences is given 18 minutes or less and challenged to give what organisers call the "talk of their lives". The result is a huge database of more than 900 talks all of which have been videoed and are available for you to watch via their website. It's an amazingly rich place to venture - the talks have long since roamed outside the realm of technology, entertainment and design and now cover an increasingly wide range of subjects. Recently posted talks, for example, include one by photographer Monika Bulaj talking about her images of Afghanistan, another by David Damberger, a member of Engineers without Borders, who talks about what happens when an NGO fails, and, a third by Srdja Popovic, a leader of the student movement that brought down the Milosovic regime in what was Yugoslavia, in which he talks about just that: how to bring down a dictator. This website is a thinking person's delight and if it's inspiration you're after or just a few minutes distraction as you learn about a subject completely unfamiliar to you (yes, I'm thinking of the TEDTalk I came across on new ways of how to harvest bone marrow), then this is place to be. There's likely to be some speakers whose views you may strongly disagree with but, then, that's all part of the mix (there's also some very familiar faces with talks by the likes of Rick Warren and Bill Graham on there). Heady stuff!
- DAVID ADAMS
18th September, 2011
Looking for a new Christian website, blog, forum or chatroom? Something a bit out of the ordinary perhaps? Go no further than zoecarnate, a seemingly endless and expanding list of websites (apparently more than 7,000 were listed on the site in 2009) created by Americans Mike Morrell and Philip Scriber (with some help). The site's listings are grouped under numerous different categories - from websites 'exploring' God, theology and church history through to arts and literature-related sites, websites for kids, news sites and personal blogs as well as many focused on specific issues like the emerging church, pacifism, and caring for the environment. There's hours and hours of surfing here, although the amount of listings means you do need to sort the wheat from the chaff - not to mention those annoying deadlinks - a little. Taking the time to look through a few sites, however, here can lead to some stellar finds - and they're not always what you might expect. In that regard, be aware that much of the focus of the list is on what you might call 'alternative' sites but, then, that's all part of the fun. Navigation couldn't be simpler - simply click on your category and then browse through the list (or simply browse the list from the top down, although that can be a slow process). Do yourself a favor and have a look. You never know where it might lead you.
- DAVID ADAMS
8th July, 2011
A bit of a news junkie? Can’t get enough of newspapers? Then we’ve found the site for you. Newspaper map is a directory of the world’s newspapers – but presented in map form. Individual newspapers are shown according to their actual geographic location on a map of the world – simply click the location of one you’re looking for and up comes its website link, complete with the option to translate the site if it’s not already in a language you can read. There's all the papers you're familiar with - and many you're not. You can also search by simply putting in the newspaper’s name and there’s an historical tab you can click to see a range of links to papers from years gone by. Simple idea but all too easy to spend hours here.
- DAVID ADAMS
20th June, 2011
It's a nice trip down nostalgia lane. While there's plenty of blogs posting old photographs, what sets Dear Photograph apart is the way it presents them. People take a photograph of their hand holding up an old photograph in front of the location where the original was taken. So you get to see the old photograph and then, behind it, how the place in which it was taken looks now (and, thus, how it has changed in the years between the two pictures). That's it. The situations in the photographs are familiar - a child's birthday party, a couple on their wedding day, fossicking on a beach - but the captions which go with them, while short, are often quite profound, touching on what the pictures mean to those who took them. It's a look into the commonality of the human experience and it's the people in each of the photos which make them sometimes merely interesting, sometimes deeply moving. There's not much of an archive at the moment but we're sure we'll see this one grow. Well worth a look.
- DAVID ADAMS
1st April, 2011
Bible Gateway Blog
The Bible Gateway website’s a terrific internet resource for accessing the Bible in a plethora of languages and different versions but what about the website’s blog? This Bible-focused blog, written largely by Bible Gateway staff with an occasional contribution from others, has a range of interesting articles looking at everything from ‘Why Jesus’ parables stand out’ through to a rebuttal of recently re-emerged claims that God has a ‘wife’, various ‘tours’ of Biblical books and theme-based posts such as ‘Popular Bible verses on Love for Valentine’s Day’. The blog, which has a simple but easily navigable blog style design, will also keep you up-to-date on what’s going on at the Bible Gateway website but even if you’re not interested in these, there are enough general interest articles to keep you reading.
- DAVID ADAMS
5th March, 2011
The Good Book Blog
A new initiative launched to help combat Bible illiteracy, The Good Book Blog brings together a group of 30 US academics at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, a private Christian university in southern California, to cover a wide range of subject relevant to the Christian life – from apologetics, theology and studies of historic figures through to church life, prayer and modern culture. There’s plenty of depth here, but it’s all presented in an engaging style and the material doesn't shy away from tough issues - once recent entry looked at the appeal of 'toxic leaders' in the church. Navigating around the site is simple - entries appear at the top of the page in the order in which they're posted in a typical blog-style format - and previous posts can be accessed by clicking on one of 15 broad categories or by author. And expect plenty of content - launched in early February, the blog has, to date, been updated regularly with several posts on the same day at times. It should prove a valuable resource for people looking to engage on a wide range of subjects relevant to the Christian faith.
- DAVID ADAMS
23rd January, 2011
A Tribute To Influential Australian Christians
Created by the Capital Bible Church in Canberra, A Tribute To Influential Australian Christians was developed, according to the website, "to provide one form of acknowledgement of the Christian men and women who have contributed to the development of the Australian nation". The 'list' so far includes more than 200 Australians and reads somewhat like a who's who of the nation's history, featuring everyone from Caroline Chisholm, noted for her work in helping homeless girls and the poor during the early years of white settlement to second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, former prisoner-of-war, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop and Arthur Stace, the man famed for spending 37 years wandering the streets of Sydney and writing the word 'Eternity' on the pavement. An easy to navigate site which operates like a blog, this is a useful starting point to gain an insight into the impact Christians of all denominations have made on Australia's past, present and future. Watch it grow.
- DAVID ADAMS
28th November, 2010
King James Bible Trust
Next year marks 400 years since the completion of the King James Bible and as part of our coverage of the occasion, we're taking a look what's happening around the web. First up is the website of the King James Bible Trust, an organisation established to celebrate the impact the KJV has had not only in the UK but around the world. The website features a handy list of events taking place to mark the anniversary, as well as perusal of the history of the Bible, a digitised 1611 edition of the KJV, interesting facts on what life was like when the Bible was produced and sections on music which the Bible has inspired and on people who have championed the Bible. The Trust are also creating a YouTube version of the Bible which you can contribute to, running a competition for young composers based on the texts and have produced a range of resources for churches, communities and schools which can be accessed via the website. It's an impressively produced website and a great place to start when looking at how you can take part in the anniversary.
- DAVID ADAMS
8th November, 2010
The Spurgeon Archive
Spurgeon fan anyone? For those who are and for those who aren’t (and even for those who don’t even know who Charles Haddon Spurgeon was), spend some time on this site and you’ll find your every Spurgeon-related question answered. England’s most high profile preacher during the latter half of the nineteenth century, Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000 people and, aside from his preaching, was also known from his multitude of printed works. The Spurgeon Archive, one of a number of websites founded by US –based pastor Phillip R. Johnson, features copies of his sermons, letters and some other works – including The Treasury of David – as well as links to an extensive number of Spurgeon-related resources to be found elsewhere on the web including his personal library now owned by the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary & College. For those interested in his life story, the 'About Charles Spurgeon' page gives them more information than they’ll ever need, and there are also downloadable wallpapers for your desktop as well as links to a wide range of somewhat Spurgeon-related organisations down to a bed and breakfast in the US which hosts a “Charles Spurgeon suite”. You can also download software and have a “daily dose” of Spurgeon delivered directly to your PDA.
- DAVID ADAMS
22nd July, 2010
It's the Bible at your fingertips. Faith Comes By Hearing, a US based non-profit organisation which aims to provide 'heart language' audio Bibles to the world's poor and illiterate, has released a free new Bible app for the iPhone. Features of the app include a dramatised recreation of the Bible which boasts more than 180 characters, music and sound effects as well as audio versions of the New Testament (in 63 versions and 37 languages), the complete Bible in English and the ability to simply share verses on Facebook. According to the creators, it's the first app that allows you to read and listen to the Bible at the same time. It's also possible to bookmark, highlight (in four colors) and add notes to verses just as you would on a hard copy Bible. The app also features a program which reads through the entire New Testament in just 40 days (28 minutes a day). Free Bible apps are also being developed for Android, Blackberry and iPad. Certainly worth a go.
- DAVID ADAMS
20th May, 2010
It’s a social networking site for Christians. The US-based MyBLAB (Be Linked As Believers) site describes itself as “a Christian social community where you can be linked with friends, bands, churches, radio stations, TV stations and Christian groups”. Not dissimilar to the big players already in this space – it says it has combined the best features of both Facebook and MySpace, MyBLAB was founded by two “preachers’ kids”, Chris Burkhart and Wes McKinsey, initially with the aim of competing with them. Burkhart, however, says he was convicted to make it specifically a place where Christians from around the world could interact in a safe environment. To that end, it’s been built with Christian churches, organisations, and bands in mind as well as individuals. It’s very early days at this stage and whether it will find success in what is already a crowded marketplace remains to be seen, but MyBLAB is worth consideration as an alternative.
- DAVID ADAMS
17th March, 2010
We’ve all become used to turning to Wikipedia when we have something we need to find out about (before hopefully always cross-checking the information we find there!). The Christian looking for information, however, may want to turn to Theopedia, described as an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity. With a look and layout which closely resembles that of Wikipedia, Theopedia boasts (at the time of writing) amost 1800 entries on everything from the books of the Bible to church history, biographies of influential Christian figures and theological studies on issues ranging from sin to salvation. A project of the Christian Web Foundation - a US-based ministry which aims to "promote Godly and thoughtful use of the internet to the glory of Jesus Christ" - the site's rules state that all the entries must be reviewed before they’re published and all editors have to affirm a statement of faith. The site also features multimedia, links to other sites including theological journals and a place where you can request an article on a subject not yet covered. A handy list of major themes appears on the homepage and Spanish speakers are invited to head to the sister site, Teopedia.com. You may not agree with everything you find on Theopedia but it's certainly a site that will get you thinking.
- DAVID ADAMS
11th December, 2009
There's some great stuff out there on the web if you're tired of the consumerist madness that characterises this time of the year we call the 'silly season'. I recently came across the website of a group called Advent Conspiracy. They are a group of concerned pastors in the US who want to take us back to what Christmas is really about - the birth of the Prince of Peace, the One who gave himself for all. I love their logo on the left. Such a prophetic message, showing a shopper with a trolly full of goods coming face to face with one of the three wise men, come to worship the King. The Advent Conspiracy movement is catching on, as you can see from a map on their website showing others who are doing what they can to celebrate Jesus at Christmas. Here's what they say about themselves: "The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas? What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? Welcome to Advent Conspiracy." They want to take us back to giving in the real sense, back to relationship and love. The slogan at the bottom of their website is quite brilliant. It says 'give presence'. This clip will give you more of an idea of what they're about. I feel inspired when I hear about groups like this, people who want to steal Christmas back from the 'Grinches' who would have us believe that it's all about how much you can buy. A Galaxy survey in 2008 showed that: "Gen Y[ers]...would spend an average of $245 on their partners, $264 on a child, $65 on a friend and $220 on themselves [and] other Australians said they would spend $189 on their partner, $196 on a child, $35 on a friend and $107 on themselves." The same would be true this year, and maybe even more so as business confidence is on the rise again. I love Christmas. I love it because, despite our addiction to stuff, it gives me hope that there is a better way, a more excellent way, as the apostle Paul put it. The way of love inspires me to subvert what Christmas has become and try to live in a way that honours the babe in a manger who grew up to walk and talk the way of the cross, and then the way of resurrection, the life that is truly life.
- NILS VON KALM
13th October, 2009
Gaining greater traction in the overseas aid community in recent years is the idea of microfinance - a concept under which would-be entrepreneurs living in developing countries are lent a small amount of money to start a small business with the idea that they’re able to help lift themselves, their families and even their entire community out of the cycle of poverty. Kiva, which was started only a few years ago after Americans Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley saw what a difference micro-lending schemes were making in East Africa, is a website that allows people like you and me to directly lend someone living overseas a small amount of money so they can follow their dream of starting or building a business. The website is filled with profiles of people who are looking for a loan from $US25 upwards. The loans, which are free of interest, are typically paid back a period ranging from six months to a year (the payback rate is at more than 98 per cent) with the average lender typically giving between $US25 and $US100 and the average entrepreneur looking for a total loan of about $US500. The would-be entrepreneurs - who are looking for money for everything from expanding a grocery store through to starting a fishing business - come from Kiva’s 128 “field partners”, respected microfinance organisations who are already working in countries ranging from Paraguay in South America to Tajikstan in Asia and Togo in Africa. Institutional supporters include corporate heavyweights such as PayPal and Starbucks. A simple, yet effective, idea, Kiva represents the best of what the world wide web is about - bringing together people from far flung parts of the globe to improve the lives of all those it reaches. Get involved and see both yours and someone else’s life transformed!
- DAVID ADAMS
8th September, 2009
Stuff Christians Like
It’s a somewhat light-hearted take on life as a Christian, but the US-based blog Stuff Christians Like also tackles some really interesting issues - posts this year, for example, have discussed everything from why it’s a good idea for men and women to share an email address to ‘worrying about the rapture’, whether it’s a good idea to go to church when on holiday, and the times when we feel like God isn’t speaking to us. Stuff Christians Like is the work of Jon Acuff, a 33-year-old who lives in Georgia and works in the advertising industry (Stuff Christians Like is just one of his blogs - others include 97secondswithgod and Everything is Replaceable.). There isn’t much here to grab you visually - the blog just uses the Blogger template - but the appeal is all in the words. Well worth spending some time on!
- DAVID ADAMS
7th April, 2009
Have you ever wanted to study the Bible at university level? If you're like me you have - but the years of night classes, homework and the cost have made it impossible. Academic Earth is a new website that shows lectures from universities all over the world on video, including at least one religion course from Yale titled "Introduction to the Old Testament". (More courses are being added all the time so hopefully there'll be more religion units among them.) You can sit through the whole semester of classes watching the lectures exactly as the Yale students do. It's free and the content is very high quality, as you'd expect from the world's best educational institutions. Most lectures even include the notes and reading assignments so that you can study exactly the same way as if you were enrolled yourself. And you can do it all without the pressure of exams.
- JAMES CROOK
20th March, 2009
Think of all the times you use a search engine during an average week and then imagine that every time you do so, a small amount of money is donated to a charity that you want to support. That’s the essence of Ripple, an Australian-based search page launched in 2007 by four friends - Jehan Ratnatunga, Simon Griffiths, Matt Tilleard and Mack Nevill - with the aim of using the “power of the internet to spark real and positive change”. Simply visit the site, conduct your search as you would on any other search engine (Ripple uses Google’s search engine) and they’ll donate a small sum (the website talks about at least two cents) to a charity. It’s all funded by advertisers who pay to run their ads on the site (the company which is supplying your donation should appear below the search box). As well as the search engine, the site also includes four “click through” charity options - simply click on the water, food, education or money symbol and at least two cents is donated to the charity whose symbol is depicted below it (current charities include WaterAid, Oxfam Australia, youth-run development agency, the Oaktree Foundation and microcredit organisation, the Grameen Foundation). There are also widgets for your Facebook and MySpace pages to encourage others to click and searchbars you can download to your computer. So get clicking!
- DAVID ADAMS
27th February, 2009
Want to make the world a better place but struggling with how? Generous has some of the answers. This UK-based website is all about the little actions we can undertake in our everyday life to improve the lives of all who inhabit this green and blue ball we call Earth. A community website (signing up is free, and although you don't have to be a member to access all the great ideas, it does allow you to publicly commit to carrying out particular activities), it categories 'generous' actions in six groups - friendly, seasonal, travel, home, work and shopping. Click through each and you'll see a list of things you can do to help others - everything from starting a walking school bus at your school through to receiving your bills online and no longer using plastic bags. OK, we are probably already aware of many of these ideas, but a reminder never hurts! And there's also space for you to make your own "generous" action suggestions as well. After, it's all about one small step at a time!
- DAVID ADAMS
11th November, 2008
Many popular movies have a point in them at which you think "Wow, that's really powerful!", and many of these can be used to learn something new about God even if they are not specifically 'Christian'. And the great thing about popular movies is that everyone can relate to them, no Christian background needed. Wing Clips follows this premise and makes short clips from popular films available for use in sermons, small-group studies or just for your own enlightenment. Titles as diverse as the Devil Wears Prada, Fantastic 4 and Evan Almighty can be used to illustrate lessons with themes including temptation, virtue, slavery and thankfulness. Downloading the clips is free for non-commercial use, there are no problems with copyright as they are deemed to be used for educational purposes. You can search by theme or by movie title, with most clips about one minute in length and sermon notes provided as well.
- JAMES CROOK
30th July, 2008
This is quite simply one of the best websites I have come across in many years, especially for those looking to see how their faith can interact in an intelligent way with the world around them. The Jubilee Centre is a UK based Christian think-tank which seeks to explore a Biblical vision for society. Its understanding is based on the conviction that “the Bible describes a coherent vision for society that has enduring relevance for…the world in the twenty-first century.” The core of the Jubilee Centre’s vision is a concern for right relationships. They “seek to study, disseminate and apply this vision in order to provide a positive response to the challenges faced by individuals, communities and our politicians". The wide range of challenges they seek to respond to include worldviews & culture, the environment, finance & the economy, Christianity & religion, lifestyle issues, sex and families, and science & technology. Many of the resources the site offers are free, and they range from papers on all the topics mentioned above, as well as books (including book reviews), reports, Bible studies, audio visual materials, and tools for church leaders. This is a site that manages to keep in balance the fine balance between personal faith issues and the Christian concern for social justice. As the Reverend Dr Chris Wright says, “Biblical scholars often fail to connect with the modern world. Social reformers often fail to take the Bible seriously. The Jubilee Centre has a fine track record in avoiding both dangers.” If you are a thinking Christian who seeks to tease out how we can respond biblically to the issues of the world, you cannot go past the Jubilee Centre.
- NILS VON KALM
24th May, 2008
Muddy River Media
The idea began when Mark Fogarty, a full time youth pastor, felt God calling him to a ministry of helping small churches to use new media on a limited budget. He started Muddy River Media, a non-profit mission society that exists to consistently provide free, quality media resources for churches, and it does it by providing them for download on the internet. The most interesting content on the site is the growing array of videos that can be used in church, studies, children's ministries or outreach events, some packaged complete with printable leader's guides. Other free resources include photos, illustrations, motion backgrounds and countdown timers. Mark and any other future Muddy River Media workers are supported in a similar way to traditional missionaries being funded by local churches and sponsors, but instead of heading overseas these people spend their time and equipment creating media resources for churches to use for free. And if you think that just because they're free the production values will be low, you'd be mistaken. These media are produced by professionals and released purely for the purpose of resourcing churches and helping the cause of the Gospel. You have to complete a free sign up to the site to get the full downloads but even without that you can see previews that are very impressive and entertaining.
- JAMES CROOK
22nd October, 2007
We Can Be
This website has been put together with the inspiration of Dave Andrews, author of Can You Hear the Heartbeat? and Christi-Anarchy among other books. It takes a radical look at the Beatitudes, those beautiful and confronting words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. I was recently reminded that, while I know how many commandments there are, I had no idea how many Beatitudes there are. This site takes a radical look at each one and shows them in a light that I believe many people would not have seen before. The title of this site is taken from the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said that we need to be the change we want to see in the world. Dave Andrews reminds us that in the Beatitudes we have the framework to be that change. He shows how they cover every aspect of life, from purity of heart to a passion for justice. The one that grabbed me the most was the fact that 'blessed are the meek' does not actually refer to humility as I always thought. The word 'meek' in Jesus' day actually referred to a rage at injustice. The site then shows that another Beatitude reflects the desire for mercy, and that justice and mercy are inseparable. Many of us who are passionate about justice issues find it easy to neglect our own relationship with God. This is where being pure in heart comes in - desiring an integrity that puts God first in all things. Blessed are the pure in heart - that's what I want as well as justice in this world. It was Gandhi who said that the Sermon on the Mount was the greatest message he had ever heard - this coming from someone who rejected Christianity, mainly because of Christians. Gandhi also said that everyone knows what the Sermon on the Mount means except Christians. Unfortunately, he is right in too many cases. No one who really lived out the Beatitudes could ever justify a preemptive strike on Iraq, nor ignore the plight of our poor neighbours in our own backyard here in Australia and in the rest of the world, nor be indifferent to the way they relate to people in their everyday lives. As Dave Andrews said recently, imagine the revolution that would occur in our lives if, instead of reciting the creeds in church every Sunday, we recited the Beatitudes instead. This website is a big help in getting us started.
- NILS VON KALM
10th October, 2007
Christsites is a funky new search engine that allows you to search through Christian websites to find what you’re looking for on the internet. It lists thousands of sites in a broad range of categories including Arts & Media, Church Resources, Kids, Shopping and Computers. While most of the sites are based around Christian themes, they do allow sites owned by Christians to be listed under certain categories - for example web design businesses that might create Christian websites. Searching by key words works if you know exactly what you’re looking for, but the power of this search engine is in the categories. Want a book on youth ministry? There’s a page full of places you can check out in the “Books” category. Want some ideas to blow the socks off your congregation this Sunday? Try “Sermons” - there’s over 400 sites listed for you to look through. If you find the numbers a bit daunting, check out the awards pages. Christsites rates and awards some of the listings to try and help you choose which ones to look through. There’s even a Christian News category, and yes, Sight Magazine is listed!
- JAMES CROOK
24th September, 2007
Your Christian Space
The contemporary internet is a place for getting together, a true global playground that allows individuals to build friendships across boundaries of distance. It’s in this environment that countless social networking websites are springing up, connecting people with all sorts of similar interests. Your Christian Space is one of these. This site allows people to sign up and create their own profile page, then make friends and connect to others from around the world. So what makes it any different to the largest social site on the internet, MySpace? The users here are Christians, of course. Millions of MySpace users are too, but on Your Christian Space they dominate, with forums dedicated to Christian topics, quizzes to test your Bible knowledge and a prayer request page. So if you feel like creating a blog or reaching some new friends, Your Christian Space might be a good way to go. At least you know you’ll have one thing in common with the other people there: Jesus.
- JAMES CROOK
28th July, 2007
At its most basic E-Sword is a tool to help you study the Bible, but this resource is so full of features that you’ll be studying in a way you never have before. And it’s free! When you run the software you’ll find a myriad of functions that enable you to read and search many different Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, graphics and devotionals. You can show several of these texts onscreen at once, linking each one to your favourite translation to create a custom study guide or parallel Bible. The power that you have to control your study space is amazing, and while the base installation comes with only one Bible text, there are over 30 translations and 15 commentaries plus many more add-on texts available for free download from the E-Sword website. It also includes Hebrew and Greek texts for in-depth study and over 30 translations into other modern languages. Some of the popular modern translations like the Amplified Bible or The Message are available but attract a small fee to download due to licensing restrictions, most seem about $20 which is still very reasonable compared to other study software available. And even if you only use the free tools there is enough here to keep you going for the rest of your life!
- JAMES CROOK
13th July, 2007
The Big Switch
This website, launched this month, is basically a one-stop shop for any climate-change related information you could want to know. The Big Switch itself is a fast-growing coalition of Australian organisations, businesses and community groups whose goal is to raise awareness about climate change solutions by informing the general public about simple lifestyle choices that we can make to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This is easily the best website of its type that I have seen. In order to better inform the public, the creators of The Big Switch sent every one of our 150 federal politicians in Australia a survey asking them whether they support key climate change solutions. On the website you can look up any one of our federal MPs to see where they stand. The website also has information about local climate groups that people can join to take action, as well as ways of lobbying and getting in touch with your MP and others to raise awareness of this hot topic (so to speak!). As well as this, the website has a vast amount of options for people to take to reduce their own greenhouse emissions, and has a pledge that anyone can sign to commit themselves to reducing their own contribution to climate change. There is so much more on this website to check out, including links, news, discussion forums, books, and movies. If you want to know what you can do to preserve the planet that God loves so much by combating climate change, this site is the best that I have seen.
- NILS VON KALM
7th May, 2007
bills itself as part of the "Intercession Superhighway",
allowing people to leave prayer requests online. Log in to
create your own prayer list - a handy reminder if you like
to intercede while you're on the internet - and later write
what answers were received. You can also pray for other people's
concerns (kept anonymous), comment on other people's prayers,
take part in community prayers and sign up for alerts to have
important prayer concerns emailed to you daily. A blog and
podcast complete the community focus of this site. While the
idea of putting prayer requests online isn't particularly
new, PeoplePray is using professional, sophisticated web technology
to provide a service far above what you'd be able to find
elsewhere. It's based in the US, but the community aspect
of this site also assures that you'll find a listening ear
and possible prayer partners from around the globe.
- JAMES CROOK
to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of
the British slave trade (and the new film celebrating the
life of abolitionist William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace),
this website is all about continuing the struggle to bring
a complete end to modern day slavery. To that end, the site
contains a wealth of information about the historical struggle
to end what was a horrific trade - including a multitude of
facts about the life of William Wilberforce (played by Ioan
Gruffudd in the film) and the creator of the hymn Amazing
Grace, John Newton - as well as information about the
modern day Amazing Change campaign which aims to bring about
an end to the fact that as many as 27 million people living
as slaves around the world. There’s links to a plethora
of resources to explore the issue and a petition to be signed
which will be presented to world leaders (it’s up to
more than 37,000 signatures although sadly this appears to
only be open to US citizens) as well as practical tips on
how you can become part of the abolitionist movement, including
creating a Clapham Circle with your friends in which you meet
to discuss the issue of modern slavery. The website also has
a link to a website about Amazing Grace Sunday - to be held
on 18th February in the US and 25th March in the UK - when
churches will join in singing the hymn Amazing Grace
and pray for the end of slavery “once and for all”
for more on this). All in all, a site to help you get active
in what remains a global struggle. Be inspired!
If you’re into things webbie, one of the buzzwords that
you hear being talked about is “web 2.0”. Simply,
this is the concept of 2nd-generation “social networking”
sites that allow users to interact with each other and form
communities over the web. It was only a matter of time before
Christians would have a proper go at site like this to help
facilitate their own communities, and mychurch.org is it.
Truly interactive, this site is designed as a way for Christians
to connect with each other. Your local church can set up a
page allowing members to talk, vote and share with each other
using tools like church blogs, sermon audio files, photo galleries,
online church bulletins, even classifieds. It’s not
designed purely for Christians, either. As the site itself
says, “a church community thrives between Sundays, and
is most effective when our social networks are engaged”,
so you can now share your church with other people you meet
online through myspace, msn or other social forums. Like many
other 2.0 sites, the design of this site has been carefully
crafted to be simple, clean and friendly, so although there’s
currently only four Australian churches listed among the numerous
US communities, that should change very quickly.
It's been a long time since my last web review - I've had
lots of work on and I haven't had as much time for fun as
I'd like to. So I thought that this time I'd review a site
that always gives me a chuckle - Reverend Fun. This site has
a daily cartoon, and although it's only one panel, it's usually
religious and always clean and is still very funny. Characters
range from Adam and Eve to the disciples to the ubiquitously
uncool youth pastor, and you can rate the cartoons out of
five laughs and share them with your friends by email. The
site is part of the Gospelcom alliance, an American missions
group with a relatively large internet ministry, and the site
doesn't say who the particular artist behind the works is
- but it does say that as long as you follow the rules you're
allowed to republish the cartoons in your newsletter or on
your own website, free of charge. What a bonus! The single-panel
format also means you get at least one laugh every day without
wasting too much of your boss's time, but be warned: the archives
of cartoons go back to November 1997, and with a new drawing
almost every day, that's a lot of back-reading to get through!
July , 2006
Global Rich List
How Rich Are You? No, this website is not another small business
"opportunity". Instead it's an ingenious idea to
compare your income with everyone else, on a global scale.
Created by the London-based company Poke, you enter your income
on this site (in $US) and it will give you a ranking on where
you stand in the world. It's a real eye-opener - I rank in
the top 12 per cent in the world, and trust me, I didn't previously
consider myself well-paid. In our culture we are encouraged
to compare ourselves to the richest of the rich - making ourselves
feel poor in comparison - but when half the world's population
earns less than $US850 per year it really opens your eyes
to the fact that even an average, working-class individual
like myself has plenty to give to the many that are far less
fortunate. Essentially, that's what this site is: a powerful
encouragement to donate to overseas charity work. As well
as the ranking system the site has some facts and statistics
about world poverty, and links to organisations that take
donations online. So go to it: rank yourself, thank God you're
so rich, and redistribute some of that wealth.
- JAMES CROOK
A while ago I did a review on the Hunger Site [www.thehungersite.com]
which feeds people in third-world countries by using the revenue
raised by people visiting their website. Clever. The Bible
Site works on the same premise but is run by Open Doors, a
mission that ministers to persecuted Christians across the
globe. Open Doors is responsible for distributing millions
of Bibles and training over 30,000 pastors in Africa, Asia,
Latin America and the Middle East. By visiting the Bible Site
and clicking the "donate Bibles" button you raise
money to go towards buying Bibles for persecuted countries
and helping Open Doors continue their fantastic efforts. You
can also, of course, make a monetary donation yourself - details
are provided on the website - and there's plenty of information
on Open Doors and what they're doing worldwide to get you
excited and inspired.
Fascinating. That's what I've found the Follow the Rabbi website
to be. Absolutely fascinating. The people who run it point
out that Jesus lived, talked and worshipped as a Jew, and
that in order to know Jesus more intimately and understand
Christianity better we must immerse ourselves in the culture
He was part of. "We must learn to 'think Hebrew' - in
the way that the original writers of the Text thought."
One way they educate people about the Jewish culture is by
conducting tours of Israel. The group leaders explain Biblical
links as they visit places of historical interest. The website
also delivers information and teaching through hundreds of
'Datafiles' and 'Faith Lessons' on different aspects of history
and theology. These pages are each self-contained lessons
that vary in delivery style and might include written Bible
studies, photos, downloadable audio teaching or even videos
taken on past tours. But although the style is not always
the same, the purpose is showing the Jewish culture, land
and people of which Jesus was a part. They fulfil this goal
admirably, with each lesson short but enlightening and lively.
Topics covered are diverse, from the significance of the Ark
of the Covenant through to geographical locations like Mount
Carmel, "God's Vineyard". For instance, did you
know that first-century Galileans not only flavoured their
food with salt but mixed it with manure to burn in their stoves?
Gives a whole new perspective on being the 'salt of the earth'.
Bookmark this page and keep coming back regularly, there's
enough here for quite a few evenings of 'thinking Hebrew'.
- JAMES CROOK
Like millions of other people around the world I've read The
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and found it an interesting
story. Besides its central adventure narrative the book also
contains a great deal of information on alternative claims
about Jesus' life and death and portions of Christian history
since. Some people have used this to make attacks on Christian
beliefs and the church. The website Jesus Decoded is a response
to these claims and the immense interest in what we might
call 'Christian conspiracy theories' that has subsequently
developed. It is organised and creative, listing each of the
claims made in the book and arguing against them individually,
often with factual proof supporting its position. The authors
of the site are obviously academics who value good research
and have come across many of the arguments before in some
form. As the site says about the theories: "Some are
merely distortions of hypotheses advanced by serious scholars
who do serious research. Others, however, are inaccurate or
false". The site also includes interesting spin-off pieces,
with articles like 'The Real Leonardo' and 'What do you say
to a Da Vinci Code Believer?' proving an interesting read
and extending some of the ideas presented throughout the main
part of the site. While Jesus Decoded seems at times to be
overly defensive in its position, the information it offers
is enlightening for both Christians and others.
February , 2006
I have reviewed online Bibles before, but there's a few reasons
that Bible Gateway caught my eye as perhaps the best of the
bunch. For starters it's the most complete, with 19 different
translations you can choose from including NIV, the Message
and the Amplified Bible, plus many more in languages other
than English. The entire text of each version is searchable
by keyword (making this site the ultimate concordance) or
you can easily lookup specific verses by typing them into
the "passage lookup" box. Every chapter is available
as RealAudio, with a gentle southern US voice reading the
parts I have listened to. There is also a Bible Commentary
available to view alongside each verse, and although it is
old-fashioned it still contains some interesting thoughts.
As well as the searchable media there are additional resources
available to help you study and understand the Bible, these
include audio bible, commentaries, ebooks, dictionaries, study
tools and reading plans, all of which seem well thought out
and accessible. The whole site is easy to navigate and understand
and provides a great resource for those wanting to read or
study the Bible.
This site is produced by Good News Broadcasting and it's one
of the best Australian examples I've seen of making good use
of the audio and video capabilities of the web. When you first
load the site you're welcomed by a friendly Berni Dymet walking
on to the side of the screen and talking about the site. He
explains the purpose of Christianity Works and highlights
some features of the website. The main attraction is that
you can listen online to the Christianity Works radio programs,
or sign up to their podcast to get the latest episodes delivered
automatically as soon as they are released. There's also streaming
television from the Australian Christian Channel if you've
got fast broadband, as well as the usual fare of Bible studies,
forums, a prayer room and information on the group's other
programs. The interface for this site is clean and hi-tech,
especially in the opening pages, and you can tell that a lot
has been invested in making a site that looks and feels classy.
Unfortunately, you really need broadband to view it properly
- even before you get to the streaming audio and video programs
- but, if you do have it, it's definitely worth a look.
The Tithing Tree
a simpler, more humanitarian Christmas." That's the motto
of this website that aims to inspire Australians to use some
of their Christmas spending to help make the world a better
place. Each year it gathers together information on about
20 small charity organisations from around the world, including
orphanages, medical foundations, environmental causes and
animal welfare groups. Each page has a rundown of the charity
showing what they do and where your money goes and includes
a link to their own website or other way of donating. The
other part of The Tithing Tree is pages of inspirational ideas,
including how to make giving part of your Christmas tradition,
what to say when your husband thinks the kids might miss out,
and testimonials from people who have given in the past. The
Tithing Tree itself is also a great example of generosity
as it doesn't take any sort of fee or percentage of the gifts
given - the people who maintain it are doing so as their own
tithe. As a bonus it's open all year, so you can continue
your giving and check back for updates any time.
John Wesley's Journal
John Wesley is writing a blog. Wesley, who lived from 1703
to 1791, who was an English preacher, theologian, author and
hymn-writer and the founder of the Methodist church, is writing
a blog. Well, more correctly, he wrote it in 1737 - long before
the phrase 'web log' had been thought of - as a journal of
his travels and experiences. It is now being published on
the internet in the same timeframe as it was written, day-by-day
showing the thoughts and experiences of one of the world's
most influential Christian figures. Wesley is a logical and
thoughtful writer, and his journal covers both the mundane
and the inspirational, and is heavy with advice on Christian
living. Much of it seems very harsh from a 21st Century point
of view, the parts about how to deal with kids seem especially
conservative considering he had none himself, but it is interesting
to read nonetheless.
I like people that aren't afraid to debate issues with those
who think differently to them. I even find the occasional
heated argument exhilarating. Working through opposing ideas
is an important way of discovering the truth in any given
situation. This is the reason that I love Think Christian,
a website that discusses Christ, culture and the ways that
faith plays out in everyday life. The site is bloglike in
style, with several contributors writing short articles on
issues they think are relevant and many people joining in
the discussion through the open comments section. Nothing
is off-limits as the largely American community presents a
range of views and arguments on topics they find challenging
or interesting. Even within one day the topics discussed can
vary widely, from US foreign policy to the importance of personal
relationship with Jesus to abortion. Think Christian's motto
includes the line: "We want to exercise our faith in
every aspect of our lives: heart, soul, and mind" and
judging by the amount of activity generated by every topic
raised, there's a lot of exercising going on. Visit this site
for interesting reading and be encouraged by the variety of
views presented by your Christian siblings.
Everybody loves a freebie, and this site knows Christians
are no exception. The makers are dedicated to tracking down
every free giveaway on the web that has a Christian theme
and collating the information into categories with links.
The selection is broad, with freebies varying from cross-stitch
patterns to web hosting to magazine subscriptions to bumper
stickers. Getting the goods is also relatively easy - the
site emails you the website addresses for the relevent sign
up pages when you order a product. So what's the catch? As
far as I can see, most of the sites providing the free products
are funded by legitimate outreach organisations that want
to give away as much Chrisitan paraphenalia as possible. They
require signup to their sites, including your email address,
but most have privacy policies in which they claim they won't
hassle you. The only problem is potentially losing track of
all your free orders - you get at least two confirmation emails
from each place, and with the amount of free stuff available
here you could be ordering all night!
Wired Jesus Podcast
A podcast is essentially an audio file that can be downloaded
and saved for listening to later either on your computer or
using a portable audio device. These audio files contain anything
from music selections to the author's thoughts to recorded
samples, or - more commonly - everything mixed together with
a funky soundtrack. This freedom of content and relative ease
of production makes the genre the audio equivalent of blogging
with an end product that sounds like a pre-recorded radio
broadcast. The practice of making and listening to podcasts
is becoming popular as digital portable audio players become
affordable and downloading files from the internet becomes
faster, and, like blogs, the quality varies from professional
to very amateur. Tom Lyberg records the Wired Jesus Podcast
weekly, sharing his thoughts on life in a postmodern, hitech
world, and I am pleased to say that his work is of a high
quality. Tom talks about current events and the spiritual
principles he sees behind them, introduces a song or two and
leaves the listener with something to think about. His messages
and his music, while being fairly conservative as far as their
Christian content, are squarely aimed at young people grappling
with a changing world and are challenging and interesting.
Each podcast on this site goes for 15 to 20 minutes and new
ones are released weekly. Read the accompanying blog and listen
to the "wired wanderings of a postmodern pilgrim".
Many people who are a part of contemporary Western churches
might consider the term 'Christian mystic' to be an oxymoron,
but in reality mysticism has a long and varied history within
Christian belief. This site is dedicated to exploring mysticism
in both its historical and contemporary forms, defining it
as "the direct intuition or experience of God".
The content is well-written and plentiful, with mountains
of articles and essays on elements of mysticism as well as
insights into the lives of traditional Christian mystics of
the past. Names that pop up as authors and subjects include
St. Francis, Brother Lawrence, St. John of the Cross, C.S.
Lewis and even St. Paul. Everything you want to know is covered:
from the historical context of mystic practices to the theory
behind them and including practical exercises to try yourself.
Whether you meditate regularly or only have a passing interest,
the breadth of knowledge at this site makes it the perfect
place to explore further.
pixelated photo on the front page of this site shows a pretty,
20-something woman sitting in front of an expensive laptop,
smiling as she goes to type something. Does this image represent
the ideals of Infinity Church? To an extent, yes - this church
is based online, meaning that the congregation participates
by using the internet. However, it is not simply an online
community. Most of the meaty stuff is provided in the form
of short audio sermons and is aimed at being used by small
groups that meet and use the recording, study notes and other
resources to reach their friends "when and where it's
convenient". The website also has questions and answers
about how to worship, build relationships and learn about
God, with the focus on quality rather than quantity of information.
Each week there is a new sermon to listen to, put together
by the couple who run the site, Edward and Leanne Leclerc.
They started Infinity in 2001 as a traditional church, but
they soon found that the people they met were not interested
in coming to a church running in a traditional way. This online
version is the result.
I've got a lot of respect for the people at Bible Society
in Australia. They reach people with the most basic, and most
important, information about God that they can: the Bible.
They are also very good at making their presentations relevant
to the social group they are addressing, and nowhere is this
more apparent than in their youth products. The website God
Speak is one of these publications, squarely aiming Bible
literacy at young people - and in my opinion it succeeds.
With a pumping introduction and pixel-perfect, organic graphics,
it provides information in terms and style that youth relate
to without being condescending or corny. That's hard to pull
off. The articles are intelligent but use language anyone
can understand. The questions and answers address real teen
problems without descending to trite Christian cliches. Testimonies
are provided by sports heroes and musicians talking frankly
about Biblical values and what they mean. The forums, while
only moderately active, are visited by young people asking
real questions and debating topics they care about. And lets
face it, that's what these sort of sites should be aiming
to do: authentically engage with one of the most individualistic
generations ever. Thankyou once again, Bible Society. Love
Stand Today is a group that takes a stand for the persecuted
church. The site has striking interviews and photos that reveal
the persecuted church, and how other Christians are helping.
Did you know there are an estimated 200 million persecuted
Christians worldwide? There is plenty of info available here
to download and present to your church, friends or homegroup,
to get people motivated. However, this site is less concerned
with information or statistics, and is more geared to providing
ways to get involved and contact other like-minded people.
You can sign online petitions, learn how to write letters
and phone appropriate embassies, and get help to start your
own group. If you're a US resident, you can even organise
for Stand Today's director to come and speak at your church.
They are currently campaigning to attract volunteers, and
hope to gain one million in the near future. Maybe you should
In design circles London is known as a centre of urban grunge
innovation and sophisticated fashions that reflect the inner-city
lives of their creators. ReJesus is a Christian website created
by such designers - it's funk meets faith, London-style. The
flashy graphics aren't there to hide a lack of intelligent
information though - on the contrary, this site provides a
large amount of content broken down into sections: The Story
(Jesus' life), Encounters (followers today), Spirituality
(prayer and meditation), Expressions (Jesus imagined) and
Community (have your say). You can view the Jesus video online,
read about famous figures from the Christian past, view the
art gallery, read poetry or sink your teeth into some deep
theological problems in the forums. I especially admire the
Expressions section filled with art and poetry as a serious
and necessary contribution to Christian art on the web. In
fact, the whole site's content is creatively made and delivered
and updated regularly, producing an authentic community feeling
that is hard to find. One of the best sites I've reviewed.
Everyone knows the internet is not the most trustworthy source
of information, but sometimes it can be hard to separate the
authentic from the dross. I get several emails a week from
well-meaning people passing on 'true' stories that to my cynical
mind seem implausible. Recent photos that claim to have been
taken during the tsunami in Asia are another example - they
depict a giant wave curling over a small village and have
been created using digital manipulation, but many people seem
to believe they are real. Stories like these are known as
'e-rumours' because of their questionable integrity. So how
do we tell what is real and what is not? Truth or Fiction
is a website that helps to hone your scam-sensors. They investigate
e-rumours and rate them either truth, fiction or unproven.
Hundreds of stories have been investigated and are split into
categories for easy browsing. While not a Christian site as
such, many of the stories refer to Christian material, and
all of them make interesting reading. Don't be gullible any
Explore the lives of famous Christians from the past in a
format that runs like a pop music video, complete with pumping
dance-music soundtrack. Some of the people I've heard of -
Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake - many of the others I have
not, but I still found their stories amazing. This is Christian
history from a pentecostal perspective, made palatable for
people who aren't historians, and it is interesting and powerfully
motivating. God's Generals features important leaders,
preachers and healers from the pentecostal movement, and promises
you will "find out why they succeeded, and why some failed".
The reader is provided with the main thrust of each person's
ministry with links to further discussion, as well as photographs,
artifacts and fantastic facts. The information provided is
simple to understand, the only annoyance is that you have
to sign up for a free membership to reach some of the more
is the human endeavour to discover truths about the world
around us. Some scientists believe the study of the world
reveals that there is no God, others believe that the overwhelming
evidence supports the existence of a Creator. All About
Science presents a Christian creationist view of science
with clarity and intelligence. The site is organised well
and is very user-friendly - which is good because although
the scientific content is simplified enough to be understandable,
it can still be heavy going at times. Intellectual discussion
of several theories including evolution, relativity and thermodynamics
lead the reader through a series of partner sites - All
About Philosophy, All About Creation and others
- between them covering an extraordinary amount of persuasive
Christian thinking. At the end of it all the reader cannot
help but reach the undeniable conclusion that God exists,
and links are provided to take the next step to relationship
with Him as well. A perfect example of good net evangelism.
internet is big. So big that it can be hard to find your way
to the good stuff without guidance. Internet for Christians
provides that guidance. It is designed to be set as your home
page and looked at regularly, so it has several categories
that are updated daily with news, reviews and links to interesting
and noteworthy sites or articles. Topics covered range from
overtly Christian themes like 'Spiritual Growth' and 'Ministry'
to the more mundane (but perhaps more interesting) 'Entertainment'
and 'Society', but even at this end of the spectrum you can
be guaranteed they won't be linking to anything unwholesome.
One gripe might be that the links are very US-centric, but
a great layout that is easy to understand helps users to pick
items that are relevant, and quality editing ensures that
there is no rubbish among them. Definitely worth checking
It is impossible to talk about websites without eventually
mentioning the increasingly popular 'blog'. Short for 'web
logs', blogs are an easy, free way to have your say and to
self-publish whatever you like in what amounts to an online
column. The most popular format is the personal journal covering
everyday events in the blogger's life. Other common topics
include reflections on life, news, current events, technical
developments or short essays on whatever the blogger thinks
is important. There are even meta-blogs, which blog about
what other bloggers are saying. Needless to day, there are
many bloggers out there that are Christian and the website
Blogs4God brings together a semi-definitive list
of them with a short description of each. Blogs are sorted
into the categories of Apologia, Church Polity, Journals,
Metablogs, Ministries, Pundits, techBlogs and Zines, and there
are hundreds listed in each category so there should be plenty
to keep you occupied. Be warned - reading blogs can be addictive.
Daniel Vineyard (iStockphoto.com)
I've noticed myself growing a small pot-belly - one of the
repercussions of a computer-based lifestyle. A friend of mine
is into yoga, but I've heard that it's based on Eastern religious
practices so I'm a bit nervous getting involved in it. What
to do? Well, Laurette Willis has founded PraiseMoves, the
'Christian Alternative to Yoga', to help people like me. PraiseMoves
sounds a lot like yoga with the Bible thrown in, claiming
"Deep Stretching, Gentle Movement and Strong Scripture
combine for Weight Loss, Stress Relief, Flexibility and Strength",
but of course it doesn't include any of the Eastern meditative
practices of traditional yoga. Instead of spiritually hazardous
poses like 'vrksasana' (tree) or 'marjarasana' (cat cow) Willis
has created moves like 'the Angel' which involves standing
on one leg with your arms stretched out superman-style, and
'the Lord's Prayer' that calls for arms extended in a Y above
your head. You can learn PraiseMoves by buying the book or
video/dvd available at this site, so if you want to get involved
in some "Fitness for His Witness" this is definitely
the place to come!
At first glance this site seems to be exactly what its tagline
claims: "A good source for Christian news" - until
you read the headlines of some of the stories. "Christians
planning to be offended by next Eminem album", "Teen
no longer called to chores" and "VeggieTales Exclusive:
Where are they now?". Each link leads to a well-written,
humourous article that gently pokes fun at part of contemporary
Christianity. There are spoof ads too, for things like the
"Holy Spirit Explosion Conference - and Monster Truck
Rally" and "Baptist Beer", and you can even
read your "personal prophetic word" or sign up for
Lark Personals. Each issue contains about 15 stories, and
a complete new issue is posted every month.
In June this year Walt Disney Studios began producing The
Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,
a feature film planned for release late in 2005 based on the
classic book by C.S. Lewis. Like the recent Lord of the
Rings movies, it will be filmed and produced in New Zealand
with a cast of international actors and will be directed by
Shrek's Andrew Adamson. For those of us that grew
up reading the Narnia series this movie will be a great way
to see our beloved characters on the big screen and is sure
to provide ample opportunities to talk about the deeper meaning
behind the story. If you want to brush up on your Narnian
lore, this beautiful and enchanting site is for you. It has
a bit of info on the movie, but that section is understandably
light this early on. There is also a section devoted to the
books, and another inviting you to "Explore Narnia".
This option opens a flash site that has beautiful artwork,
quizzes, games and info on the lands, the characters and the
history of Narnia. And it's not just for kids - it will capture
the imagination of adults just as easily.
would you survive in our community without permission to work?
You are not eligible for any benefits or Centrelink? You have
no family in Australia? No friends? How do you find accommodation?
How do you catch a tram, train or bus? Buy food? What about
soap, toothpaste, a razor?" Of around 8,000 asylum seekers
lawfully living in Australian communities on bridging visas,
many are not entitled to Medicare or welfare payments and
are not allowed to work. Denied these sources of income they
are among the poorest people in Australia and often have issues
with homelessness, health, nutrition, isolation and depression.
Some have family or friends to help them, but a significant
number have no support. Denied government help, it is left
up to the church and community groups to provide these people
with food, clothing, housing and medical attention. The Asylum
Seeker Project at Hotham Mission in Melbourne has spent seven
years providing housing and basic living assistance. They
also advocate and lobby on behalf of their clients, and help
tie people in with local communities. At the Asylum Seeker
Project website you can learn more about what they do, sign
up to help or make a donation.
I don't normally read e-zines aimed at 15-year-old girls,
but I came across this one while searching for an article
on Christian snowboarder Matt Hammer. The 'Real Life' section
of Brio contains interviews and biographies of many sports
stars and others, albeit most of them women. There is also
a surprisingly rounded array of other sections that teen girls
will love covering health & beauty, entertainment, relationships,
spiritual health, quizzes and a fiction fix. Sounds a bit
like Dolly? It is. But the aim of this website is
"teaching, entertaining and challenging teen girls toward
a healthy self-concept and closer relationship with Jesus
Christ". The creators do seem to go deeper: 'Daily Soul
Food' provides a short devotional every day, and 'Brio Missions'
organises groups to go to places like Panama. 'Brio &
Beyond' asks those tough questions that teen girls face as
they get older, like 'What’s Your Marriage Criteria?'
and 'Going Deeper: Would Jesus Read His Horoscope?'. Now,
I'll probably never look at this site again, but that doesn't
mean I don't like it. It is reaching a group of girls at a
critical age with language and a look they can understand,
and I think there should be more of it!
Ministry Blue - search engine
Ministry Blue is essentially a search engine dedicated to
cataloguing links to Australian Christian resources. The obvious
categories are present: churches, missions, resources and
Christian groups, but there are also more obscure listings
like multimedia and office supplies, camping, business, education
and performing arts. Visually, this site is shocking, but
as far as content goes it can be handy if you want to find
resources specific to Australia. If you want to go to Bible
College, it can direct you to 15 found in Victoria, or if
you want to buy a second-hand data projector, they can sell
you one. Having said that, the lists it does have are not
comprehensive so don't expect to be able to find everything
you want. For instance, Ocean Grove Baptist Church isn't listed,
although over 40 other Baptist churches in Victoria are. Give
it time to grow and this site might develop into a Christian
search engine that Australia needs.
Finding it hard to meet people who share your Christian values?
Do you want to meet Christian singles or friends online? Although
this site offers much more, the tone is set by these two questions,
prominently asked at the top welcome of the page. Other services
offered include job listings, marriage and parenting advice,
devotionals, world news and a page of clean jokes, most of
them about religion, some of which are funny. You can also
shop for books or CDs or sign up for Christian travel tours.
The purpose is to build an online Christian community, aimed
at the 20-something generation who are comfortable making
friends with other people on a website. Its clean design will
appeal to this market, and although the content makes me cringe
at times by being a little too introvertedly focused on all
things labelled "Christian", if that's what you're
into this site will meet your every need.
I was lucky enough to attend a fascinating labyrinth service
at Easter this year (pictured right), and it got me interested
in the history of the labyrinth as a worship tool. They have
a long history; many of the European cathedrals built in the
Middle Ages have labyrinths laid into the floor, and they
are also experiencing somewhat of a revival with many churches
(like the one I visited at Easter) making them for special
occasions. In England, Youth For Christ has a mobile labyrinth
with 11 contemplative stations that they take to different
churches around that country, and which they have also brought
to the web in a very interesting way at this site. The music
is calming, the design is flashy and a great example of multimedia
usage, the download times are a little long but definitely
worth it. So remove your shoes, take a deep breath, and head
to the 'Online Labyrinth' for a fascinating online spiritual
It's late in the afternoon and you haven't prepared anything
for youth group this evening. Don't worry, YouthPastor.com
has everything you need! This site has saved my skin on more
than one occasion, with lessons, games, event and fundraising
ideas and talk outlines all available for download. The majority
of the resources are posted by youth leaders or pastors who
also use the site, so you can usually trust that they have
been tested with real, live young people and are going to
make the grade. There is also a large section that keeps up
with the latest Christian music trends, indexed topically
so you can easily choose music to match your study. Handy.
If you're just starting out, check out the long list of youth
group names from around the world to give you some ideas.
Real Live Preacher
It takes a lot to make me cry over written words. Love in
the time of Cholera by Marquez did it, and the Adbusters magazine
regularly makes me weep with its depictions of human hopelessness.
But this site is different - it makes me weep with joy. Real
Live Preacher is a beautifully-written weblog by a pastor
of a small southern US church. Even the ordinary weblog fare
of jokes and happenstance becomes honey in the hands of this
Preacher, and a high percentage of his posts are short stories
or poems that so perfectly explain what God is about that
he has earned a spot in my "daily-visit" bookmarks.
Follow the "Preacher's Stories" link to get the
best of the best.
The Hunger Site
How do websites make money? Well, one of the ways is through
advertising on the site. Every time the page is loaded and
a viewer sees an ad, the website owner gets paid a small amount.
How can we use this concept to raise money for the poor? The
Hunger Site has the answer. The main page has a button at
the centre which, when clicked, donates money to feeding the
poor through the established charities Mercy Corps and America's
Second Harvest. The donation is paid for by the advertisers
on the site - there are quite a few - so it costs the viewer
nothing. Each click equates to one cup of food, and the site
has become so popular that on an average day donations exceed
five metric tons! In fact, the site has worked so well since
its inception in 1999 that there is now a series of related
sites you can visit to raise money for your other favourite
charities: the Breast Cancer Site, Child Health Site, Rainforest
Site and even an Animal Rescue Site. Now you can solve all
of the world's problems with a click of the mouse, and all
10th March, 2004
Anyone who has been in the same room as a Christian child
and a television in the last ten years will know how popular
the VeggieTales series is. Jonah is the latest movie
adventure from Big Ideas' vivacious vegetables. At this colourful
website you can find info on the movie, read interviews with
the cast members, download preview trailers, send e-cards,
and - most importantly - play Jonah-based games for
hours on end. A young friend I visited recently tore herself
away from the screen only long enough to assure me they are
"the funnest"! While this site is obviously commercial,
the under-12 age bracket will find it very entertaining, and
it is somewhere you can safely let your kids spend the afternoon
surfing. Who knows, they might even learn something!
Classics Ethereal Library
I was recently introduced to a large sub-culture that exists
in our society, by a colleague at work who has been experimenting
with it for a couple of years. People indulge themselves as
they practise in the car, in bed, or as we do, in the office.
Yes, I have been listening to audio books. This interest led
me to find the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, where
you can freely download classic Christian literature read
aloud and recorded into mp3 format. This will play on your
computer, or can be burnt to CD and played in any CD player.
The selection includes Brother Lawrence, John Wesley, G.K.
Chesterton, John Bunyan, and even an unlikely 35-hour-long
recording of the entire novel "Anna Karenina" by
Leo Tolstoy (downloadable in 28 parts). Unfortunately, the
quality is not the best: a female voice that sounds like it's
coming through a tin-can telephone monotonously reads all
the samples I listened to. Bearable for relatively short works
like Brother Lawrence's "Practise the presence of God",
but I think I'll leave Tolstoy for a printed edition.
This is the best Bible reference I have ever seen, online
or off. It contains the text for 12 Bible translations including
NASB, RSV and even the Latin Vulgate. You can search for words
or phrases (easier and more flexible than a concordance) and
you can also look up over 15 commentaries to help you get
a grasp of what it all means. As well as all these you can
download devotionals, audio and video commentaries and sermons,
images, hymns, maps and other study tools. Got a toughy? Try
the theological FAQ section. In all, this megasite delivers
over 3,560,000 links onsite to over 165,000 pages, and it
does it in an organised and easy-to-use fashion. Got to love
All About God
All About God calls itself "the Christian Community for
seekers, skeptics and believers". What does that mean?
Well, it means this site has info on all the issues that seekers
or new Christians are likely to ask about. It starts with
questions like "Is God Real?" and "Is the Bible
True?" and then continues through to deeper topics which
include "Situational Ethics" and "the Human
Genome Project". The answers are short with plenty
of Bible references, and they cover all the questions that
anyone might ever have about Christianity. The design is slick
enough to appeal to seasoned web surfers and the articles
are categorised to make them easy to find. Aimed more at youth
than adults, this site will be worth a look if you've got
a teenage friend asking difficult questions.
It was only a matter of time before televangelists made it
into the new medium in a big way. "Cybervangelists"
could be their new title. Streaming Faith is their home. This
site has a program covering hundreds of television and radio
shows that are available online in streaming form. This means
that if you've got a fast enough internet connection you can
tune in through your web browser for preaching, teaching,
fundraising and even music videos, the same as if you were
receiving their television or radio broadcasts. All the content
is American and you've got to sign up for a free "Faith
Pass" before you can access some channels, and even then
you shouldn't attempt to watch streaming video without a cable
internet connection (radio audio works alright). If you can
overcome these hurdles this is definitely worth a visit.
If you've ever thought "Gee, I wish church was different"
here's a place where you can feel right at home with your
outrageous ideas. This site is the ultimate source of information
to get your soul swinging and your brain thinking differently.
The idea is to have worship in a way that you enjoy, and that
means re-inventing the experience of worship in totally new
and exciting ways relevant to the culture that you happen
to live in (without changing the gospel message). There are
literally hundreds of well-written articles on alternate worship
theory here, submitted by theologians and other people involved.
The site also contains many practical ideas and links to alternative
'churches' and other related websites. While the content is
fairly intellectual it is designed and organised beautifully
and there are plenty of photos and introductory articles to
help get you get up to speed.
Smallfire is a pictorial archive of Alternative worship events.
You'll see photos of different worship spaces filled with
games, labyrinths, data projectors, Christian symbols, gold,
coffee, laptops, televisions, sound equipment and lots and
lots of candles. Most of all, you'll see the enormous range
of ways in which people around the world are worshipping God.
Some of the photos seem to bear no relation to the traditional
church as we know it - some appear to be of the interior of
garages, others are pub lounges - but they all have people
enjoying themselves and the presence of God. This is a great
place to get ideas, but don't expect explanations of what
those people are doing sitting around the gold-plated beer
barrels - it's pretty much photos only, and some of them are
See more web reviews at the CASTING
THE NET archives.