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Ephesians 5:8

Ephesians 5--8

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Light

Light into the World

God is Light

God is Light

Psalm 94:19

Consolation

Be Generous

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Websites that explain what it means to grow as a Christian and how to do it

Prayer

Ten Action Steps for a New Christian

http://www.rbc.org/rtb/

A simple, yet vitally important list of the actions important for a new Christian, with clear explanations.

Christian Research Institute

http://www.equip.org/

I’m listing this website again because it is also one of the best resources for Christian growth. This is the website of the Christian Research Institute and Hank Hanegraff, the Bible Answer Man. It has many resources that answer questions about the Christian faith and other religions in-depth. Excellent books and resources are also available on the site. You can also listen to the Bible Answerman radio program from the site. I highly recommend this program for anyone exploring the Christian and for the Christian who wants to grow in their ability to answer questions about the faith. If you need solid assurance that the Bible can be trusted or any questions about false teachers, this site will help you.

The Blue Letter Bible

http://www.blueletterbible.org/index.html

A classic site of free Bible study tools: commentaries, maps, all sorts of study guides. This is wonderful resource for personal Bible study. From individual verses you can click on concordance and commentaries related to the verse.

Our Daily Bread

http://www.rbc.org/odb/odb.shtml

A wonderful daily devotional for both new and more mature Christians.

Radio Bible Class Ministries

http://www.rbc.org/

There are a wealth of resources on this site for growing in your Christian life. There are Bible reading plans, articles on finding a church, answers to many questions people have about the Christian faith.

Into Thy Word

http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/0,,34418,00.html

A wonderful site that will teach you how to study the Bible, lots of great Bible study articles, fantastic links on their Bible Study Tools page, lots of great information. Highly recommended.

OnePlace.com

http://www.oneplace.com/

A very fun site and educational site. This site contains the links to many Christian radio stations. You can listen to your favorite radio preachers live here and can download messages.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

http://www.ccel.org/

This site contains the digital copies of many of the great classics of the Christian faith. It also has online book study groups and lots of other resources for in-depth, Christian study.

The Bible Gateway

http://www.biblegateway.com

Look up any version of the Bible, in many languages and copy and paste it into your studies or to read later. Also has a link to audio Bibles, commentaries, and on this site you can sign up for a variety of devotional newsletters.

2 Timothy 1:7

2 Timothy 1--7

Imagine No Malaria – World Malaria Day – April 25, 2015

World Malaria Day - April 25, 2015

Earth Day – April 22 – Bible verses on Creation Care

Earth Day - April 22Here for you on this Earth Day are several Biblical references that call us to care for God’s Creation:

Genesis 2:7The Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils.”

Adam was created out of dust of the earth. How could there be any more of a relationship with the earth than to be created out of it?

It’s as if God scooped up a couple handfuls of earth and formed humanity. When He formed Adam he was not a living being until God breathed life into his nostrils and we became living human beings.

The fact that we exist as living, breathing human beings suggests that we have a relationship with the earth because we were created out of it and we have a relationship with God because we breathe the very breath of the one who created all that is.

Genesis 3:23the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken.”

Even the fact that God put Adam and Eve in a garden is an important point. Due to their disobedience, they were kicked out of the garden and the land was cursed making it more difficult for them to coax the earth to provide for them.

Genesis 4:12 “When you farm the fertile land, it will no longer grow anything for you, and you will become a roving nomad on the earth.”

The story of Cain and Able is also a story of disobedience. When Cain, a farmer, killed his brother, God punished him by removing him from the soil. He became a wanderer across the earth with no connection to any land.

When he lost his relationship with the land, he could no longer see the face of God. Relationship with the land and relationship with God were, for Cain, inseparable.

Disobedience of God and violence towards one another results in negative consequences for the earth.

Genesis 9:13 “I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Few people know that Noah’s father, Lamech, thought that his son might one day be the “righteous” one to remove the curse on the land (Genesis 5:28-29).

When Noah’s Ark came to rest and the animals were released, a rainbow appeared. It was a sign not only of God’s covenant with Noah, but also with the animals and the earth itself. Noah’s story is a story of reconciliation of humanity and the earth. God saw what he had done and promised he would never again curse the land.

John 1:3 – “Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.”

At the beginning of John’s Gospel there is understanding by the writer that Jesus was present at Creation and that everything that ever came into being came into being through Christ.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”

Many think that the whole Christ event was just about personal salvation, but actually, it was about God’s love for everything God has made. The word world is better translated as cosmos.

The Apostle Paul

Romans 8:19 – “The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.”

Colossians 1:20 “he reconciled all things to himself through him—whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross.”

Paul has the understanding that Jesus was the redeemer not just of humanity, but of everything God created.

Learn more about The United Methodist Church and its teachings about the Natural World, and Creation care.

Earth Day – April 22 – God’s Gift of the Earth: A Photo Prayer

Earth Day - April 22The world marks Earth Day each April 22. This video features stunning images of Nature along with the beautiful words of a prayer written by United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter when he was a pastor in North Carolina in 2005.

All United Methodists are called to be good stewards of the planet. One of our Social Principles about the Natural World explains:

“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.” 

Click on the image of Earth to view an Earth Day video featuring stunning images of Nature along with the beautiful words of a prayer written by United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter when he was a pastor in North Carolina in 2005.

You are encouraged to use this video for personal reflection and also download and share it with others.

 

2 Chronicles 15-7

Forgive That Jerk? – Forgiveness

ForgiveWhat does giving yourself as a living and holy sacrifice look like in real life?

How does God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think?

This section of Paul’s letter to the Romans spells out one major element of the complete answer to these questions: how you choose to react to being wronged.

Interact with God’s Word

Romans 12:17-21

  1. Paul uses the word “never” twice in this section (vv. 17 & 19).  What is he ruling out?
  2. If you do retaliate, what, according to verse 21, would Paul say has happened?
  3. How many end up being harmed when you indulge in payback?
  4. What do you risk by allowing God to be the final balancer of accounts?  Are you okay with this?
  5. Besides breaking a cycle of retaliation, what does the quoted proverb (v. 20) say may result?
  6. Instead of saying “forgive,” what specific actions does the proverb prescribe?
  7. How does doing kind acts change how you feel about someone who’s hurt you?
  8. Look up Proverbs 25:21.  What does the unquoted phrase add to your motivation?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for experiencing His undeserved favor. Ask Him to deliver you from bitterness and make you willing to pass His grace on to others.

Romans 12:17-21

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it.”

20 Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” 21 Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Consider the Source

ForgiveKey Bible Verse:  Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.”  Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.  – Proverbs 20:22

Bonus Reading:  Genesis 45:1-15

[continued from yesterday]  Weeks later, Brian got a call from a larger insurance company. “We’ve watched how you deal with mutual clients,” said the voice.  “We’re impressed. Would you consider working for us?”

“I’ve been here for years and have a solid group of clients,” Brian replied.  “Thanks, but I’m not interested.”

But the man persisted, and Brian consented to meet for lunch.  There, Brian held firm.  “Just do this for us,” the executive urged.  “Talk with your wife, come up with a salary you’d like to be paid, and let’s meet back here in a week.”  Brian reluctantly agreed.

“I’ll end this discussion fast,” he told his wife.  “I’ll name a figure three times what I’m making now.”

When the executive asked for Brian’s salary request, he reached for the letter in his pocket.  “First, let us show you what we want to pay you!” interjected his host, sliding a letter across the table.  Brian picked it up and stared—at a number four times his salary!  Regaining his composure, Brian said, “Let me take this home and pray about it with my wife.  I’ll get back to you.”

“You put your case in My hands,” the Spirit of God spoke to both.  “This is My promotion.  Take it!”

—John Bevere in How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated

My Response: Do I trust the outcome to God even if things aren’t turning out my way?

Thought to Apply: God aims to exalt Himself by working for those who wait for Him.—John Piper

Adapted from How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated (Nelson, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation.  But You’ve said to leave that to You.  00Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Press Charges?

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: Don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me!  I’ll get even! Proverbs 24:29

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 37:1-40

While pastoring a church in Dallas, my friend Al Brice preached from 1 Peter on how to respond to abuse.  Afterwards, a member (I’ll call him Brian) approached him. “Pastor,” he said, “I’m a junior executive for a large insurance company. I was next in line to become vice president.  All my fellow employees know I’d earned the promotion.  But when the position came open, the company gave it to another man.”

“Why was that?” Pastor Brice asked.

“Because the other man is white and I’m black.  That’s discrimination, Pastor, and I believe I can prove it.  I was all set to start legal action this week.  But now your message has messed me up!”

“Do you want to do it God’s way or your way?” Pastor Brice asked.

“God’s way,” Brian answered without hesitation.  “That’s why I’m talking to you.  Would you please pray with me?”  They bowed their heads and committed Brian’s case into the hands of his Father.

Next morning at work, Brian went to the office of the fellow who’d been promoted, stuck out his hand, and said with a smile, “Congrats on your promotion.  I want you to know that I’m going to be your best worker.” [continued tomorrow]

—John Bevere in How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated

My Response: A time when God’s Word “messed up” my plans was …

Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.—Archibald Hart (psychologist)

Adapted from How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated (Nelson, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Cooked Books

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.  –  1 Corinthians 4:12

Bonus Reading: Colossians 3:12-14

Years ago my friend Carlos discovered that several thousand dollars were missing from his business, covered by phony figures.  It had to be his bookkeeper.

Carlos called Jan in and confronted her.  She didn’t deny it.  In tears, she told how she and her husband, Tom—not a believer—had hit rocky times and sunk deep into debt.  Giving into temptation, she’d “borrowed” the money, hoping to restore it before it was missed.  Had Carlos filed charges yet? she asked.  When should she clear out her desk?

But Carlos told her there’d be no charges or firing. “You’re my Christian sister. I want to help you out of this mess.  I just need to know that you’re sorry, that it won’t happen again, and that you’ll pay the money back.”

“There’s no way we could borrow that much,” Jan said, “with our credit like it is.”

“You can pay back $100 a month, till it’s covered,” Carlos explained, “at no interest.”

“Even that’s impossible,” Jan sobbed. “Every penny’s gone before I get my check.”

“Sure you can—” Carlos responded, “when you get your raise. Starting next week, I’m raising your salary by one hundred dollars a month.”

Jan remained a trusted employee in Carlos’s office for years.

—Lynn Anderson in The Jesus Touch

My Response: Is there a way I could model God’s forgiveness in my relationships?

Thought to Apply: Forgiveness is the oil of relationships.—Josh McDowell (apologist)

Adapted from The Jesus Touch (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Payback Time

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: Pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it.  – 1 Peter 3:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:17-21

[continued from yesterday]  I rode a cold bus to the Yukon to retrieve my pickup.  Our “friend,” charged with theft, failed to show for the court case. My resentment over his betrayal had festered.  Now, he’d reappeared.  “Lord,” I prayed, “What should I do?”

I went to the hospital. The nurse said he’d been arrested, then transferred from jail to the nearest hospital when his condition worsened.  It was him, all right, but now skin and bones.  His eyes said he recognized me—and had planned to never see me again!

“I forgive you for taking my truck,” I managed.  “Because God forgave me, I forgive you.  I’m not angry.  I’ve been praying for you.”  He couldn’t move or speak, but his eyes teared up.

I returned daily, reading from my Bible, and telling him that God loved him and that the native people were praying.  Unexpectedly, his condition stabilized.  Then he was taken off life support.  After five weeks he could talk well enough to tell me he wanted to receive Christ as his Savior!

One Sunday as our church service was beginning, a taxi stopped outside.  The driver helped someone into a wheelchair.  Weak and pale, he wheeled himself to the front of the church and sobbed, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”

—Mark Ward in The Conquering Indian

My Response: Have I ever asked God how I should deal with a betrayal?

Thought to Apply: If you forgive people enough, they belong to you whether they like it or not … the squatter’s rights of the heart. —JAMES HILTON (English novelist)

Adapted from The Conquering Indian (Indian Life, 1994)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Fork-Tongued “Friend”

ForgiveKey Bible Verse: As for this friend of mine, he betrayed me; he broke his promises. Psalm 55:20

Bonus Reading:  Luke 6:35-36

A man was checked into our Prince George, British Columbia, hospital.  “He’s paralyzed, can’t talk, and might not live long,” I was told.  “His name’s the same as the guy who stole your truck!”

I was thunderstruck. When this white man came to our town, he knew my nephew, and called him “brother.” He visited our native church; we welcomed him. I talked to him about the Lord; he seemed interested. One day he told me, “I’ve been promised a supervisor job on the Alaska Highway, but I’ve no way to get to the Yukon, and no money. If I can go take the job, I’ll get your nephew a job too.”

My people are always ready to share. So our church gave him warm clothes, boots, a down jacket, and a $200 travel-money loan. I loaned him my 4×4 pickup and extra tires. We prayed with him before he left, promising to return my pickup that weekend.

The weekend arrived—but not our friend. Fearing an accident, we prayed for his safety. After a second weekend with no word, we called the Yukon Highway Department. Nobody with his name had ever been promised a job! Two months after I reported my truck stolen, the police recovered it in bad shape. [continued tomorrow]

—Mark Ward in The Conquering Indian

My Response: Have I ever been taken like this? What was my reaction?

Adapted from The Conquering Indian (Indian Life, 1994)

Prayer for the Week:  When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

 

Forgive That Jerk? – Grace for a Grinch?

ForgiveWho Said It…Spencer Perkins

For 14 years, Spencer, the son of racial reconciliation pioneer John Perkins, co-led an interracial community in Jackson, Mississippi, with New Englander Chris Rice. They also ministered nationally through Reconcilers Fellowship until Spencer’s death at 43 in 1998. Their shared experience is related in More Than Equals (InterVarsity, 1993, 2000). Since “most black people are angry,” Spencer said, the only way to redirect this force positively is to “play the grace card.”

What He Said…Grace for a Grinch?

“Daddy, come quick,” shouted my daughter. “Someone stole presents from under the Christmas tree.” While we slept, someone had entered, picked out a dozen gifts, removed the blanket that covers my favorite chair, and used it to haul them away.

When Johnathan realized that the stolen gifts included his top-of-the-line sneakers, he stormed out of the house in tears. I sat stunned and fuming on my coverless chair.

Later that day I put the question to my son. “How should we as Christians respond to the person who tried to steal our Christmas?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, Dad,” he said. “Even though he doesn’t deserve it, we’re supposed to give him grace.”

I knew the words out of his mouth were opposite to what Johnathan was feeling in his heart—because I felt the same way. But we had to start somewhere. If we could take one step toward forgiveness, just maybe our hearts could line up with our words, creating a counterculture of grace.

Adapted from More Than Equals (InterVarsity, 1993, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: When I’ve been wronged, Lord, I’m naturally bent on retaliation. But You’ve said to leave that to You. Help me to submit my case to You.

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What You Should Know About Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

Protect Religious FreedomOn March 26, 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The action has drawn sharp criticism by people and politicians who directly oppose religious freedoms and by those who are simply unaware of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal model for Indiana’s new law.

Here is the text of a March 27 article by The Gospel Coalition that outlines what you should know about these types of religious freedom legislation:

What is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

Federal Religious Freedom Restoration ActThe Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a federal law passed in 1993 which is intended to prevent other federal laws from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

According to the text of the law, the purposes of the RFRA are:

 (1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and

(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.

 

Why was the RFRA needed?

As the text of the RFRA notes, the purpose of the legislation was to restore a prior standard of religious exemptions. Legal scholar Eugene Volokh identifies four periods in modern American history that relate to religious freedom exemptions:

  • Pre 1960sStatute-by-statute exemptions: Prior to the early 1960s, exemption for religious objections were only allowed if the statute provided an explicit exemption.
  • 1963 to 1990 — Sherbert/Yoder era of Free Exercise Clause law: In the 1963 case Sherbert v. Verner the Court expressly adopted the constitutional exemption model, under which sincere religious objectors had a presumptive constitutional right to an exemption because of the Free Exercise clause. This decision was reaffirmed in the 1972 case, Wisconsin v. Yoder. During this period that Court used what it called “strict scrutiny” when the law imposed a “substantial burden” on people’s religious beliefs. Under this strict scrutiny, religious objectors were to be given an exemption, unless denying the exemption was the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. But during this period, as Volokh notes, “The government usually won, and religious objectors won only rarely.”
  • 1990-1993Return to statute-by-statute exemptions: In Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court returned to the statute-by-statute exemption regime, and rejected the constitutional exemption regime.
  • 1993-PresentReligious Freedom Restoration Act era: In 1993, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave religious objectors a statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws (subject to strict scrutiny).

If we have the RFRA, why do we need religious freedom legislation at the state level?

RFRA was intended to apply to all branches of government, and both to federal and state law. But in 1997 in the case of City of Boerne v. Flores, the Supreme Court ruled the RFRA exceeded federal power when applied to state laws. In response to this ruling, some individual states passed state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

Which states have state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts?

Religious Freedom Restoration Act lawsCurrently, 19 states have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NM, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, and VA).

Ten other states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar (strict scrutiny) level of protection (AK, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, OH, WA, and WI).

With some exceptions (such as Mississippi), the state versions are almost exactly the same as the federal version.

What exactly is “strict scrutiny”?

Strict scrutiny is a form of judicial review that courts use to determine the constitutionality of certain laws. To pass strict scrutiny, the legislature must have passed the law to further a “compelling governmental interest,” and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest. For a court to apply strict scrutiny, the legislature must either have significantly abridged a fundamental right with the law’s enactment or have passed a law that involves a suspect classification. Suspect classifications have come to include race, national origin, religion, alienage, and poverty.

Aren’t state RFRA’s about discrimination against homosexuals?

Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration ActNone of the RFRA’s even mention homosexuals, nor are they about discrimination. As University of Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett explains, regarding the Indiana law:

[T]he act is a moderate measure that tracks a well-established federal law and the laws of several dozen other states. Contrary to what some critics have suggested, it does not give anyone a “license to discriminate,” it would not undermine our important civil-rights commitments, and it would not impose excessive burdens on Indiana’s courts. . . .

The act’s standard is applied in many jurisdictions across the land and it has long enjoyed support from across the political spectrum. This standard is not new; we have plenty of evidence about how it works. We know that courts have not applied it to require excessive accommodations or exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and civil-rights protections. Fighting invidious public discrimination is, American courts agree, a public interest of the highest order. Contrary to the concern quoted in the recent Tribune piece, a business owner or medical professional who invoked the act as a “license” to engage in such discrimination would and should lose. The act creates a balancing test, not a blank check. . . .

Why then do so many people claim it is about discrimination of homosexuals?

Mostly because of biased and incompetent reporting by the media. Last year Mollie Hemingway wrote a blistering critique of reporting on the issue in which she said, “we have a press that loathes and works actively to suppress this religious liberty, as confident in being on the ‘right side of history’ as they are ignorant of natural rights, history, religion and basic civility.”

Not much has changed since last year. Many media outlets identified the Indiana bill as being “anti-gay.” Unfortunately, rather than being outraged at finding they were lied to by politicians and journalists, most Americans will not bother to learn the truth and will remain ignorant about these important laws that protect our “first freedom.”

Addendum: Since many readers are unaware, it is worth noting that while the RFR does not protect businesses from discriminating against homosexuals, that is already allowed except in states or local municipalities that expressly forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.