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The heroes who signed the Declaration of Independence

Interior view of the HMS Jersey, a British prison ship during the Revolutionary War, showing prisoners and guard (Credit:  Darley, Felix Octavius Carr, 1822-1888 , artist; Edward Bookhout, engraver)The American hero who authored our Declaration of Independence died on this day, exactly 50 years after its signing.  "This is the Fourth of July," Thomas Jefferson noted on his last day.  John Adams, patriot and second American president, passed away on the same day.

Not everyone who signed the Declaration enjoyed such a storybook ending to his life.

Dr. Lyman Hall was accused by the British of high treason; his plantation and home were destroyed, and he and his family fled to Philadelphia until the war's end.  George Walton was captured in battle and became a British prisoner of war.  William Hooper was disowned by his father for supporting the revolutionary cause; when the British destroyed his estate, he became a fugitive until the war's end.  Thomas Heyward was injured and captured by the British during the Battle of Charleston, spending a year in a prison camp.  Arthur Middleton lost his plantation and spent nearly a year in a prison camp.

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NBC announces sequel to 'The Bible'

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, executive producers of The Bible miniseries on The History Channel go over changes on the set (Credit: Lightworkers Media/Joe Alblas)"The Bible" was the number one new cable series in 2013.  In its first week of home video release, it became the top-selling miniseries of all time.  It is also the number one television series on DVD and Blu-Ray in the past five years, passing one million units sold in the first three months after release.  Now NBC has announced that it will partner with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to air the sequel, "A.D.: Beyond the Bible."

Mark Burnett is one of the most successful television producers in history, with $63 million in earnings so far this year.  He has won five Emmy Awards and four People's Choice Awards for his work on Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, The Voice, Shark Tank, and other projects.  All told, he has produced more than 1,200 hours of television programming which airs regularly in over 70 countries worldwide.  His wife, Roma Downey, has starred in 25 different television movies and shows, including the long-running "Touched By An Angel."

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Arizona fire kills 19 heroes

A woman cries during a memorial service for the 19 firefighters who perished battling a fast-moving wildland fire, in Prescott, Arizona July 1, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott) A raging wildfire 85 miles northwest of Phoenix cost 19 firefighters their lives on Sunday.  When winds changed unexpectedly, the men were caught in the blaze.  The men were "some of the finest people you'll ever meet," according to their fire chief.  One woman learned that her husband died by watching the news with her four children.  "They died heroes," she said.  President Obama called the men "heroes" as well.  

The men paid a high price to join their elite 20-person firefighting unit.  According to the "Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew" website, their members' "common bond" is "our love of hard work and arduous adventure.  We believe in rigorous physical and mental training, which allows us to perform at the optimum level in any location and under any circumstances."  Their members are required to possess "traits such as teamwork, professionalism, integrity, honesty, care and respect, and reliability."  Nineteen of them died displaying those traits and protecting those they were pledged to serve.

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Aaron Hernandez murder trial: What it says about us

Former New England Patriots football tight end Aaron Hernandez stands during a bail hearing in Fall River Superior Court, June 27, 2013 in Fall River, Massachusetts (Credit: Boston Herald/Ted Fitzgerald)Aaron Hernandez was one of the most promising young stars in the National Football League.  The New England Patriots recently signed him to a $40 million contract extension and his future seemed assured.  Then he was charged with murder last week in the shooting death of his friend, Odin Lloyd.  He is also being investigated in connection with a double homicide in 2012.  He has been released by the Patriots and is being held without bail.

Meanwhile, the murder trial of George Zimmerman is making news again.  Zimmerman is accused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012.  The racial overtones of the tragedy and trial have sparked public outrage.

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How should Christians talk about same-sex issues?

Same-sex marriage wedding ring nestled inside rainbow ring in the palm of a hand (Credit: Beth Hommel via you Google the word "gay," a multi-colored banner appears on your screen in support of Gay Pride Month.  By contrast, Westboro Baptist Church thanked God for the DOMA ruling, claiming that it will hasten divine judgment.  (One of their tweets ends, "Yay + Destruction!")

Let's construct a third lane on the highway, one that neither endorses sin nor condemns sinners.  Our target audience is a person for whom biblical authority is not persuasive.  This person is not a Christian, or does not believe that the Bible forbids same-sex behavior, or believes the Bible to be wrong on this issue.  How can we speak the truth in love?

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