Who’s Driving?

November 8, 2019 by Discerning Dad

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV

When my son was around 3 years old, my wife was getting ready to leave to run some errands. As she was getting ready to go to the car, my son said, “I don’t want Mommy to drive.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because I love her.” This comment gave me some ammo to playfully ask my wife why our son was worried about her driving (to be fair she is a very safe driver…).

While amusing at the time, I’m not sure what my son meant at his young age asking who was driving and since then neither of my kids have ever worried about who was driving. They may ask which car they are going in, but they are never worried about either one of us driving because they trust us fully. It honestly shouldn’t be something they should worry about.

Many years ago I took a giant charter bus with a group of people to a mountain to go skiing. It was early morning and we were driving on this narrow path with a steep ledge on the side of the road. The bus was going fast winding through the mountain and it was snowing. My nerves kicked in and I had to remind myself that the driver was a professional (I hoped), had done this many times (I assumed), and would get me safely there (which he did). Once I gave over control to the driver, I was actually able to sleep the rest of the way and wake up safety at the ski resort.

My fear and need for control is the same reason I have a problem with flying, I don’t fully trust the pilots or the process and imagine we are doomed to go down in a fiery ball of death. In reality, flying is one of the safest modes of transportation (they say) and pilots are extremely reliable and have a lot of experience. Only once I breathe, relax, and focus on other things can I get through the experience with some of my sanity still intact.

It’s easy to want to control every aspect of our lives, after all God has given us control of certain parts and allows us to be good stewards with what we have. We have to be faithful to raise our families with structure and love. We have a responsibility to our career to be diligent as we work “unto the Lord.” And with finances, we have to be wise with how we use our money, giving charitably and not spending frivolously.

If God is ultimately in control of your life and IF you have given it over to Him, He should be the one steering your life in the direction that He has planned out for you. We should simply be along for the ride, acting in obedience along the way, and fully trusting in the direction we are going even though we can’t see the destination.

Nothing is worse while you are driving than being subjected to a backseat driver (that is sometimes at the front seat in the form of your spouse). When someone tries to interject comments to try and “help” it usually ends up being a distraction unless that help is specifically solicited.

When we try and take the wheel, so to speak, from God and give Him advice on where we should go, it is no different than my children telling me how to get somewhere. It is not helpful.

Our need for control tries to take away attributes of God through our assumption that we know better. Instead of trusting in God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, we subjugate Him to our servant, a genie who we command to give us what we want.

We, however, are not all-knowing. Just like my kids do not see the upcoming construction in the road or the alert I got on my phone for traffic that caused me to take a detour, God may be taking us down a different path than what is “normal” or “comfortable.” It might be a path that leads us into safety and not comfort. It might be a path that enables our growth and not stagnation. It might just be a path that brings life and not death.

God has been down every road before, nothing is surprising to Him. We may be unsure of where to go but we can trust our Guide.

Our need for control can and does get in the way of the purposes and plans of God for our lives. He does not force His will on us, sometimes He has to shake us, but He would much prefer to find a willing vessel that doesn’t fight Him every step of the way.

The Bible says-

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

We want our plans to be glamorous, to bring us glory, to bring wealth, peace, health, and safety. However, Jesus said the “last will be first.” Many times the path He has for us is a road less traveled, a narrow path that forges us into the holy disciple that He can then trust with for more. And sometimes THAT path, to quote Robert Frost, makes ALL the difference.

Discerning Reflection: Have I given God control of my life while still being a good steward with the responsibilities I have? Can I trust in the path God is leading me even though I can’t see the destination?

Prayer: Lord, help me trust in you despite my need for control. Help me be ok with not knowing every detail but trust that you know the future and that I can trust you with mine.

Tim Ferrara

Who’s Driving?

VIDEO The Bible Project videos reaching millions with help of YouTube and crowdfunding

By Jeannie Law, Christian Post Reporter

The Bible Project video still, "Exodus" 2019. | TheBibleProject.com


An animated video outreach called The Bible Project has been successfully reaching millions of people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the support of crowdfunding and its promotion on YouTube.

“We want people to experience the Bible as the unified story that leads to Jesus, a big meta-narrative that leads to Jesus,” Mike McDonald, director of Strategic Relationships of The Bible Project, told The Christian Post.

“Why that’s even a thing for us, is that our founders, and people like myself, and many others often just find it difficult to read the Bible. It’s a massive book [with] many different authors, many different times in history, different literary styles. It’s such a complex group of books that it becomes very difficult on how to even approach it,” he said.

The Bible Project was launched in 2014 in Portland, Oregon, and hopes to encourage people to engage with the scriptures.

“At least in our communities, we’re fast approaching a very post-Bible Christianity,” McDonald stressed.

The former pastor said he comes across Christians all the time who do not often open their Bible or are excited about it.

“We wanted to solve that. The biggest reason why people don’t read the Bible is because we don’t understand the context, we don’t know how to approach the books, or the chapters that we’re reading,” he said.

Since its inception, The Bible Project has produced over 130 videos and 200 podcasts, accumulating 125 million views across all media channels in over 200 countries.

The outreach tool was started by longtime friends Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins who met at Multnomah Bible College. The pair wanted to help people read through scripture while avoiding common pitfalls of misunderstanding the Bible. Combining Mackie’s doctorate in theology and his deep understanding of the Hebrew Bible with Collins’ ability to simply communicate complex topics and his passion for visual story-telling, they chose to create teaching videos and put them online for free.

The Bible Project was an instant success and with people willing to give for the creation of the videos, they now have more than 100,000 supporters.

“Tim had this idea of doing something called, Bible in five. He wanted to do overview, explanation type videos, of books of the Bible, in five minutes so that everyday people that aren’t going to go to seminary can have enough context and information to go in and actually read the Bible,” McDonald said of his colleagues.

“Jon became so good at communicating that he created two companies in Portland that Microsoft, Apple and Google would all hire when they were launching new, complex ideas. He would help them figure out how to communicate that in 30 or 60 second commercial slots.”

The Bible Project is the “merging of those two people and those two things” he added. “You’ve got this incredible Bible scholar, and this incredible question asker/communicator, and you put them together, and that’s the Bible project.”

The team collectively now create explainer videos on the Bible and hire the best artists from around the world to come and be a part of the project. They’ve even worked with talented illustrators from Pixar to bring some of their projects to life.

“You can just do so much more with animation than you can, with just Tim [teaching] with a whiteboard. There’s just so many crazy, complex ideas when we’re talking about God, or the Holy Spirit. How do you do that in just a live teaching?” McDonald reflected. “So we have the freedom to actually do animation around those complex ideas and help communicate them.”

“It’s not just young, it’s every age group, we have so many folks that are in their mature 60s and 70s that love learning the Bible through our videos, but we also have eight-year-olds that are just as engaged in the video,” the Director of Strategic Relationships revealed.

Reaching the unchurched

The project is in the top 225 of all-time podcasts. Their videos on YouTube are also specifically viewed by people between the ages of 18 to 45, and is particularly strong in males ages 18 to 35.

When asked about their remarkable ability to reach the unchurched, McDonald said it’s really because of how they deliver their content.

“I wish that we came up with some big strategic plan at the very beginning, but to be honest, part of it is the fact that we chose two things. We chose YouTube as our primary platform when we first launched the project and there were a couple of reasons for that,” he explained.

“One, we always wanted it to be free and YouTube allowed us to do that, where it didn’t cost us to upload videos and create channels and all that kind of stuff. Two, we knew that YouTube is still, to this day, and is only growing as the number one media consumption platform in the world, not just here in America, but around the world. More people watch media on YouTube than any other platform,” McDonald added.

In spite of concerns that social media censors the Gospel message, McDonald maintained that YouTube has actually helped them reach millions of people.

The Bible Project has “evidence to the contrary” he said.

“What’s amazing with YouTube is that there’s a YouTube cadence, meaning that if we made our videos slower in the cadence, we would drop off views and people wouldn’t finish them,” he shared. “We know the cadence of the most-watched videos and we keep our videos in line with that media consumer cadence so that our videos get finished at a very high percentage rate and YouTube loves that because they want to keep people on their platform.

“YouTube actually, forwards people, that have never heard of the Bible project to our video, depending on some of their search history. So about 50% of our YouTube views come from YouTube actually pushing our content to them. I think we’re reaching, quite a few unchurched or non-believers through YouTube pushing our content, because of the way that we do it.”

The project is especially helpful because so many people have many questions about the Bible and YouTube is where many in this generation turn for answers.

Another reason they are reaching the 18 to 35-year-old male demographic that the churches often having a hard time reaching, is because “YouTube skews that way,” McDonald noted. “YouTube skews 18 to 35-year-old male, that’s the majority of people that are on YouTube.”

“Over 50% of our views is coming from that group of people,” the director who has led thousands of Christian leaders on more than 200 trips around the world, shared.

“Whether you’re in church or not there, there’s still a massive group of people that are wanting answers and wanting to know what their purpose is on this life. They’re looking for a place to actually engage with their spirituality, whether they are followers of Jesus or not. There’s still this deep-rooted connection to that and because of the way that we do our explainer videos, they just end up being in a place that, whether it’s non believers, or faith-friendly people, or brand new Christians, or people that have walked away from the church, they are still trying to figure out how to engage in their spirituality, they’re finding our videos extremely helpful,” McDonald told CP.

20-year-old youth leader and AdventHealth University student Emma Mantlo says she strongly “supports” the video project and revealed that she’s had professors use the information to help teach students to understand scripture.

“Many professors who taught Bible classes I attended used the Bible Project as a reliable tool to summarize a book or help create an overview of the Bible and how everything comes together as God’s beautiful plan to save humanity,” Mantlo shared.

She added, “I have consistently gone back to this resource to have varying input on all details surrounding different books, words, and themes.”

The non-profit Bible Project operates solely through crowdfunding.

“We didn’t go into this thinking we’re going to make 18 to 20 videos a year,” McDonald acknowledged. “We thought maybe we’d get two out, maybe three. By God’s grace, the crowd caught up very fast, through a few people that helped share it.”

Public Christian figures Pastor Francis Chan and Jefferson Bethke were instrumental in spreading the word early on by sharing the videos with their audiences.

“Now we have just an army of incredible generous patrons that keep the project going. It’s primarily average donations of $20 a month but we have tens of thousands of them, that allow us to keep this project going,” McDonald testified.

“It’s a bit of an affirmation that people are finding it helpful. It’s only growing in that support, which just allows us to continue to make 18 to 20 videos a year, plus translate them into 54 different languages, and get these localized videos out into the world as well.”

The Bible in different languages 

The Bible Project ventured out into the Spanish market just this year and already surpassed 200,000 subscribers on YouTube.

“I don’t think we ever thought this many people would be engaging and finding the videos helpful. There is such a lack of great resources that are free for people around the world. Spanish was the first language we kicked off,” said McDonald.

With over 100 videos already done in Spanish, each video is localized featuring Spanish artists. The Bible Project doesn’t simply do voice-overs for their international video either, they select local people to share the video content in their native tongue.

“We actually re-animate, redraw, through local indigenous folks that are doing the art and are doing all the voiceover. We do full translation. It’s full-on,” McDonald disclosed. “It takes a while but we end up with a product that really feels like it was built for that context and for that people group.”

The Bible Project also has videos in Hungarian, Polish, Cantonese, French, German, Russian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Mandarin which are all at different stages.

“Some of the newer ones, we’ve only got 15 or 20 videos done, but those are all YouTube channels that people can access right away in their countries and in their context,” he noted.

The goal is to have videos in 54 languages in the next seven years, with each video fully localized.

The Bible Project regularly supports organizations and churches who wish to integrate their videos into sermons and teachings. The crowdfunding has made it possible for McDonald to travel and assist in doing so.

Worship & Creative Pastor Jeffrey Abyad of Capital Life Church, Arlington, Virginia, said his church community joined a YouVersion Bible reading plan for a year that incorporated The Bible Project videos.

“We loved it. The visuals are such an illuminating way to look at scripture, and the theological depth of concepts distilled into such an interesting and easily understandable format have been invaluable,” Abyad admired.

“It has re-energized my hunger for the word in a whole new way. I’m very grateful for the Bible Project — their passion for God’s word and their creativity and dedication to sharing their insightful content with the world free of charge,” he supported.

North Point Ministries Pastor Andy Stanley in Atlanta, and Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, have both been known to use the project in their ministries. Celebration Church has fully integrated The Bible Project into their services. They play a video every Sunday in front of their entire gathering as well as in their kids and youth groups.

Nonprofit organizations such as CruYoung LifeAlpha, Prison Fellowship, and Bible Study Fellowship further integrate the teaching videos.

Because it’s done on YouTube and focuses solely on scripture and biblical history, the project allows for multiple denominations to use the video. The Bible Project avoids partnerships with ministries or organizations to avoid mis-associations. The outreach tool encourages everyone to use their videos as long as the content remains free and they use YouTube links.

“If you’re on YouTube, the way that YouTube works is I can put a Beyonce video on my Facebook from YouTube, it doesn’t mean that I know Beyonce or am partnered with Beyonce,” McDonald reasoned. “That’s allowed us to stay very ecumenical in our approach to serve the big C church, whether it’s Pentecostal, Protestant, Catholic, or whatever.”

“The goal is to help people! We’re the Bible project, not the theology project. We’re just talking about what the Bible is saying, in that context for that moment.

“The foundation that we’ll lay down will be extremely helpful for you and your church, and then if you take it a little bit further, that’s up to you as a shepherd, as a pastor, to shepherd your people in that way,” he said.

The video does not subscribe to a particular Bible translation as Mackey is fluent in Hebrew and studies from the word from that translation, then explains it in English.

The ultimate goal for them would be to turn the corner on the Bible Christianity side of things, and really move the needle in people being able to actually read the Bible with confidence, McDonald concluded.

“Jesus taught from the Bible all the time. So if it was important to Him, in His ministry, to teach from texts that were a thousand, 1,500, 2,000 years old, then I think it’s got to be important to us,” he concluded. “At the end of all of this, if we have people go, ‘I love to read the Bible. I get excited about it, It’s crazy, It’s weird, It’s interesting, but I dive into it,’ that would be a huge win.”

Check out The Bible Project on YouTube. For more information visit the website.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/the-bible-project-videos-reaching-millions-with-help-of-youtube-and-crowdfunding.html

 

Armenian Orthodox Leader: ‘We May Forgive One Day … But We Will Never Forget.’

Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, on what comes next after US House recognizes Armenians’ “legitimate claim” of genocide.
Armenian Orthodox Leader: ‘We May Forgive One Day ... But We Will Never Forget.’

The Armenian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. According to tradition, Armenia was evangelized by Jesus’ disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. In 301 A.D., it became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

An Oriental Orthodox church, the Armenians are in communion with the Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, and Malankara (India) churches. They differ with Catholics and Protestants over the 451 A.D. Council of Chalcedon decision to recognize Christ as one person with two natures: human and divine. Oriental Orthodox Christians declare Christ has one nature, both human and divine.

The Armenian Church is governed by two patriarchs, entitled Catholicos. One, Karekin II, is Supreme Patriarch for all Armenians and sits in Armenia.

CT interviewed Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, which was once located in modern-day Turkey but since the Armenian Genocide relocated to Antelias, Lebanon, five miles north of Beirut. His jurisdiction includes the Armenians of the Middle East, Europe, and North and South America.

Aram I discussed the genocide, the US House of Representatives resolution this week to finally recognize it, and Armenians’ desired response from Turkey.

How do you respond to the US resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide?

Yesterday I made a statement welcoming warmly this action taken. I believe it is very much in line with the firm commitment of the United States of America in respect to human rights. The rights of the Armenian people are being violated. After more than 100 years, we tried to bring the attention of the international community that the Armenian Genocide is a fact of history.

Whether we call it genocide or massacre or deportation, the intention is important. The intention of the Ottoman Turkish government at the time was to destroy [and] eliminate the Armenian people for political reasons. The presence of Armenian people in the western part of present-day Turkey and [historic] Cilicia was an obstacle to their project of pan-Turanism.

This is our legitimate claim: that the international community make a visible, tangible manifestation of their concern in respect to human rights, and recognize the Armenian Genocide. It was carefully planned and systematically executed by the government at the time.

Our people all around the world warmly greeted this action of the House of Representatives. It is our firm expectation that the Senate will reaffirm their decision.

To what degree are you responsible for the Armenian genocide file in your church?

I am not the only person, but I am on the forefront—a dedicated spiritual soldier of this combat, for the restoration of our human rights. This center is a victim of the genocide. My predecessor was in Cilicia, in Sis, present-day Kozan [in Turkey’s Adana province]. The Holy See of Cilicia [now in Lebanon] was there for centuries. With his bishops, he was forced to leave.

The very existence of the diaspora is due to the genocide. It is an imposed reality. You saw the chapel, the relics of the genocide: Did they come from heaven? We didn’t decide to come here; the circumstances forced us.

The pursuit of our rights has been one of the top priorities in our agenda. The human rights issues are part of the mission of any church. We want to help our people continue this struggle.

For the first time, we took a legal action against Turkey. We filed a case demanding the return of our Holy See in Cilicia. Let’s see what will happen. What we are doing is the restoration of historical truth. Turkey has through illegal ways questioned our claim, but the historical reality and evidence is there. No one can deny that.

If Turkey really wants to establish contacts with the Armenian people and open a narrow window of opportunity to turn that page, if they have a good will, this case is their chance. So far, their reaction is negative.

What would the restoration of your legitimate rights include? How is the injustice of 100 years made correct today?

We may get different answers to that question. We must make a distinction between rhetoric and concrete reality. We should not be emotional.

The first step could be the return of the Holy See of Cilicia and the churches, monasteries, and community properties. We can limit our expectations to within the church. In politics, we have to be down to earth. Any package deal might not lead us in the right direction. We have to move step by step.

If Turkey shows “a good will,” what are the different visions of a second step?

I don’t want to anticipate anything. Nobody knows what will happen. Some of these churches have been converted into restaurants or mosques. In the last 100 years, some have been totally destroyed, some partially destroyed. But the Holy See of Cilicia can be a first step, as it has a profound symbolism—spiritual, national, and to a certain extent political. But it should not be mixed up with politics. For us, the church is the people. It is not just a piece of land.

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The creation of good will is very important in international relations. But the American resolution comes at a moment of profound “bad will” between the US and Turkey. Does the resolution threaten to damage the good will necessary to restore Armenian rights, since only Turkey can grant them?

Let me answer your question in a different way. America acts according to two principles: geopolitical interests, and human rights values. Sometimes—very often—you see contradiction between the two. I understand that reconciling them is not easy.

The United States has established relations with Turkey. This is reality. But the role of the church is always to remind and challenge the state authority to give serious consideration to human rights values—to go beyond the narrow geopolitical interests of a country.

How does the church’s spiritual role for forgiveness and reconciliation apply in the issue between Armenians and the Turks?

Forgiveness is an essential element of our Christian faith. But forgiveness comes when there is confession. The Armenian church said, ‘We may forgive one day when justice is done, but we will never forget.’

The church has a prophetic role to play. It must take a clear stand. I don’t believe in easy forgiveness, or easy reconciliation. Easy forgiveness may lead us in a wrong direction. The church must have the guts to say “no”; not always “yes” [and] not always “we forgive.”

The church’s role is one of reconciliation, but it is the result of a long process that implies accepting the truth and practicing justice. There is no real, lasting, permanent peace without justice—without accepting the truth.

The Turkish denial for 100 years of the genocide committed by their forefathers created an image of “enemy” with the Armenian people. We have a problem, and that problem is solved by the people and state accepting there was a crime committed. This is our legitimate claim.

In every “battle,” there are often others working behind the scenes to facilitate an eventual peace, even while the fight is going on. Is the Armenian church also involved in spiritual outreach to soften the hearts of the Turkish people or government, as the legal battle for rights is being waged?

The atmosphere in Turkey needs to be changed, and I see certain emerging positive signs. Some intellectuals have started referring to the genocides, using that word. And more than a million Turks have started saying openly that they have Armenian origins, and were forcefully converted to Islam. This is a new reality. They are born as Turks, but have identified their roots as Armenians. We have not yet discussed this issue: Muslim Armenians? This is a new phenomenon.

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I hope these signs increase day-by-day, and the people will come to realize that something very bad has happened against the Armenians. Erdogan, from time to time, refers to that. I hope he goes further, and says it was a crime, carefully planned and executed by the government at the time.

On the level of states, reconciliation is easier. They tried to open borders and start diplomatic and economic relations without mentioning genocide. But on the level of nations [peoples], I think it is very difficult.

The genocide is deeply rooted in our common consciousness. You cannot uproot it. You cannot solve this problem around the table, by coming to dialogue. The atmosphere must change.

Five years ago, I invited the first Turkish intellectual who had written a book recognizing the Armenian Genocide to come here. I told him, “My predecessors will anathematize me if they see from heaven that a Turk has come here. But they will see you in a different way.”

My telephone rang: It was my father, who heard I had invited a Turk to come here. When he gets angry, he starts talking in Turkish, because he was born in Turkey. He started criticizing Turkey with harsh words, and the author was sitting next to me.

“How have you accepted a Turk here in our church?” he said.

I said to the author, “I’m sorry for this embarrassing situation.”

He said, “No, this is the old generation, how they react.”

I told the author, “The new generation in Turkey should change this atmosphere of animosity, by taking certain concrete steps. And one of these steps could be the return of Armenian churches and monasteries.”

This does not have to be a political action. It can be an act of good will in accordance with international law and human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights has said that churches and monasteries need to be returned to their legitimate owners. We’re expecting this. Let’s see.

Read more: Will US Genocide Resolution Satisfy Armenian Christians?

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/aram-i-armenian-genocide-orthodox-catholicos-cilicia-turkey.html

How To Suffer Pain?

 

September 20, 2019 hepsibahgarden

Count it a joy to suffer for Jesus. If the Christian walk isn’t a joy for you, then it’s a sign of your poor spiritual state.

Our fight is against a supernatural enemy. It can be fought only spiritually. If you aren’t in Christ, mentally and emotionally, you will end up complaining and questioning God.

How terrible for man to be in a state to question God! When you lose the vision of the cross, and the precious blood shed for all, your minds and hearts scatter to old natures. You will find yourselves struggling spiritually. The fleshly desires tries to takeover.

It’s easier to lose yourself in the world but difficult to find yourself in Christ daily. Unless you don’t learn to care for your spiritual man, the flesh will always overcome you and make you question your very existence.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Except God. He is the one we need to please. Without faith it is impossible to please God. When you suffer for Jesus, exercise your faith. Faith is evidenced in trusting and obeying God’s word. Don’t let your mind wander to unnecessary thoughts and imaginations. Stay in prayer and gratitude. Let God’s peace flow into your mind and heart.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James‬ ‭1:2-4

Be blessed 💕

 

Original here

The Prayer Of The Publican!

 

November 7, 2019 hepsibahgarden

 

Two people went to pray in the temple. Luke 18:10-14.

One was a Pharisee and the other a Publican!

While the Publican’s prayer was justified, the prayer of the Pharisee was condemned. Why? What was so special about the Publican’s prayer?

THE PUBLICAN’S PRAYER:

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke‬ ‭18:13

We can see 4 important aspects in the Publican’s prayer:

  • He stood afar off inside the temple – This was because the Publican acknowledged his sinful life before God — he admitted his position and stated as he was.
  • He was unwilling to even lift his eyes to heaven – He did this because he understood his unworthiness in God’s presence. Perhaps, he lived an unjust life like Zacchaeus.
  • He kept striking his chest – This is a sign of deep sorrow. He was crying out to God, desperately seeking for forgiveness.
  • He prayed, God be merciful to me a sinner!

Humility was evident in the Publican’s prayer and therefore he went back to his house being justified by God. But the Pharisee, even though he religiously followed every law, yet, he failed to humbly pray to God. His prayer was rather self-righteous and that’s why he went back condemned.

God looks into our hearts and knows who we really are! He is an impartial God and those calling out to Him from the depth of their hearts are sure to be heard. ❤️😊

Be blessed 💕

 

Original here

We Dare Not Ignore the Devil

Article by Jon Bloom

A.W. Tozer once memorably said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Though I agree with C.S. Lewis’s response to this line of thinking — that “how God thinks of us is . . . infinitely more important” than how we think of him — Tozer’s point is still crucial: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 1). How we think about God determines how we live.

Now, what comes into your mind when you think about Satan and his demons? Certainly, it is not the most important thing about you. And what God thinks about Satan and demons is infinitely more important than what we think of them. But what we think about the demonic realm is certainly not unimportant.

“We must be more willing to be considered fools than to cruelly leave people the victims of enslaving evil.”

What do we think of what God has to say about the existence and activity of devils in Scripture? How seriously do we take what he says — not just in creed but in deed? How much does a conscious awareness of spiritual warfare functionally factor into our daily life? How does it affect how we pray? How does it inform the ways we see our areas of chronic temptation, fears, family dynamics, church conflicts, physical and mental illnesses, inhibited gospel fruitfulness, geopolitical events? What kinds of strategic spiritual action do we take in response to these things?

These are important questions. Because how we think about satanic forces also determines in significant ways how we live.

Are We Ignorant of His Designs?

The New Testament authors wrote with a profound awareness of the cosmic war they were involved in. They determined to “not be outwitted by Satan; for [they were] not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

“The devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) factored prominently in Jesus’s life, teaching, and miracles. From his temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1–11) to the events surrounding his crucifixion (John 13:27), Satan and his forces were an ever-present reality. Jesus taught that demons actively enslave people (Luke 13:16), actively seek to gain influence over religious leaders and institutions (John 8:44), and actively oppose and seek to undermine and corrupt gospel work (Luke 8:12). He also taught that Satan understands his massive influence in the world as his “kingdom” (Luke 11:17–18). When Jesus’s closest disciples described his miraculous ministry, they said, “he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

When Jesus commissioned his early apostolic leaders, he sent them into a world of unbelievers “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). They understood that they — and all Christians — are involved in a war in which “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

“What comes into your mind when you think about Satan and his demons?”

And they repeatedly warned Christians to “be sober-minded [and] watchful” because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). They did not want us to be ignorant of Satan’s designs.

The question we need to ask ourselves, especially we Christians in the West, is this: Are we ignorant of Satan’s designs?

Test Case

Here’s a test case. How did you emotionally respond to my earlier mention of “physical and mental illnesses” as possibly being caused or exacerbated by demonic beings? Did it provoke some level of cultural embarrassment because the idea sounds so unscientific, even superstitious? Or did it provoke some defensive anger because, especially when it comes to mental illness, you want to emphatically state that no one should assume the affliction is demonic?

Now, before any qualification, let’s take a moment to assess our emotional reactions. If we feel some embarrassment, why? If we feel some defensive anger, why? What’s fueling our responses? How much are they fueled by an accurate biblical understanding of demonic involvement, and how much are they fueled by our personal experiences and/or our culture’s naturalistic assumptions about everything?

It’s important that we query our responses and not accept them too easily. They might expose an unbiblical imbalance or blind spot. Every era has its spiritual blind spots, and demonic forces will, by all means, capitalize on them. The first century had its blind spots, and we have ours. We are naïve to think they don’t significantly affect us. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to instruct Christians of all eras to be sober-minded and watchful, and not be ignorant of satanic schemes.

No, certainly not all physical and mental illness is caused or exacerbated by demonic beings. The Bible doesn’t teach this, nor have the vast majority of Christians throughout history believed this. This is why at Desiring God, along with many resources on spiritual warfare, we also have many resources on mental illness, disease, and disability.

Cost of Supernaturalism

But Western evangelicals in general are not in danger of an overapplication of demonization. We are far more in danger of under-application — of a functional, unbiblical naturalism. This is partly due to cultural blind-spot assumptions. But increasingly, it is also a result of the growing cultural cost of supernaturalism.

“Every era has its spiritual blind spots, and demonic forces will, by all means, capitalize on them.”

We live in post-Enlightenment cultures that consider the biblical, supernatural worldview to be a foolish religious hangover from the Dark Ages. The very idea of a demon-haunted world is ridiculed. But not only is it considered foolish; it is quickly being considered abusive to insinuate that a person might be afflicted by a demon. From a naturalistic perspective, such an assertion only heaps shame on someone already suffering — all because people like us aren’t willing to let go of an archaic worldview whose time is long past.

This packs an emotional punch, often landing on our spiritual solar plexus. Suddenly, the issue is binary: either demons exist and the denial of them (explicitly or functionally) is cruel, or demons don’t exist and the diagnosis of them is cruel. None of us wants to be cruel; we want to help, not harm, the afflicted. But one side of the binary is cruel. One might accurately call it demonic.

Stand Firm

For Western Christians, this means if we want to seriously engage in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and see many people “turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18), we must be willing to endure the cultural shaming (perhaps eventually worse) that will come from taking demons seriously. We must be more willing to be considered fools than cruelly leave people the victims of enslaving evil.

How we think about satanic forces, and how seriously we take God’s instruction to us about them, determines how we live. The more aligned we are with the Bible’s view of reality, the more faithfully we will follow Jesus, the more spiritually helpful we will be to people, and the more damage we will wreak on the domain of darkness. But we also will bear the reproach Jesus endured (Hebrews 13:13).

The Bible is a robustly supernatural book. The spiritual war between God and his angels and the devil and his angels, and human beings on both sides of the conflict, fills its pages from cover to cover. And here’s the way it instructs us to live:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10–13)

Let’s take this seriously. Let’s not leave people captives to demonic schemes. And let’s stand firm in the assault.

Same week Congress approved First Amendment, it requested Day of Prayer

Nation’s first National Day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God

The First Amendment was passed in the First Session of Congress, which was meeting in New York City.

The first Ten Amendments, called the Bill of Rights, were intended to be “handcuffs” or limitations on the power of the new Federal Government.

The Bill of Rights was signed by two individuals in the U.S. Congress: Vice-President John Adams, as President of the Senate, and Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, as the First Speaker of the House, who was also an ordained Lutheran minster.

The PREAMBLE to the Bill of Rights reveals the intent of the States to prevent the Federal Government from an “abuse of its powers,” insisting “restrictive clauses” should be placed on it:

“The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to PREVENT misconstruction or ABUSE OF ITS POWERS, that further declaratory and RESTRICTIVE CLAUSES should be added … as amendments to the Constitution of the United States.”

The First Amendment began:

“CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Websters 1828 Dictionary defined “respecting” as: “regarding,” “concerning,” or “relating to.”

In other words, when the subject of “an establishment of religion” came before the Federal Government, their response was to be “hands off,” as religion was under each individual State’s jurisdiction.

In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833, Justice Joseph Story stated:

“In some of the States, Episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in other, Presbyterians; in others, Congregationalists; in others, Quakers …

It was impossible that there should not arise … jealousy … if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment.

The only security was in the abolishing the power … But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion …

Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the State governments.”

In the First Amendment, the states also limited the Federal Congress from:

“… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Congress was the only branch of government that made laws, so it was the focus of the restrictions.

If the founders could have seen into the future that the Supreme Court would make laws from the bench, or that Presidents would make laws through executive orders and regulations, they might have worded the First Amendment:

“CONGRESS, the SUPREME COURT and the PRESIDENT shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.”

The Bill of Rights were passed by Congress on September 25, 1789, and sent to the States for ratification.

The same week Congress approved the First Amendment, they requested President George Washington declare the United States’ First National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God.

Obviously, they did not think the First Amendment that they just passed should outlaw prayer or God!

President Washington declared on OCTOBER 3, 1789:

“Whereas it is the DUTY of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of ALMIGHTY GOD, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me

‘to recommend to the People of the United States A DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of ALMIGHTY GOD, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to ESTABLISH A FORM OF GOVERNMENT for their safety and happiness;’

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that GREAT AND GLORIOUS BEING, who is the BENEFICENT AUTHOR of all the good that was, that is, or that will be;

That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks,

for His kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation;

for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of HIS PROVIDENCE, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war;

for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed,

for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to ESTABLISH CONSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT for our safety and happiness, and PARTICULARLY THE NATIONAL ONE NOW LATELY INSTITUTED,

for the CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;

and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to THE GREAT LORD AND RULER OF NATIONS, and beseech Him

to pardon our national and other transgressions,

to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually;

to render OUR NATIONAL GOVERNMENT a blessing to all the People, by constantly being A GOVERNMENT OF WISE, JUST AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed;

to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord;

TO PROMOTE THE KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE OF TRUE RELIGION AND VIRTUE, and the increase of science among them and us;

and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd of October, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. -George Washington.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger stated in the case of Marsh v. Chambers (675 F. 2d 228, 233; 8th Cir. 1982; review allowed, 463 U.S. 783; 1982):

“The men who wrote the First Amendment religion clause did not view paid legislative chaplains and opening prayers as a violation of that amendment …

The practice of opening sessions with prayer has continued without interruption ever since that early session of Congress …

It can hardly be thought that in the SAME WEEK the members of the first Congress VOTED to appoint and pay a CHAPLAIN for each House and also VOTED to approve the draft of the FIRST AMENDMENT … (that) they intended to forbid what they had just declared ACCEPTABLE.”

In the Supreme Court case of Town of Greece, NY, v. Galloway et al, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the decision, May 5, 2014:

“Respondents maintain that prayer must be nonsectarian … and they fault the town for permitting guest chaplains to deliver prayers that ‘use overtly Christian terms’ or ‘invoke specifics of Christian theology’ …

An insistence on nonsectarian or ecumenical prayer as a single, fixed standard is not consistent with the tradition of legislative prayer …

The Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes of the sort respondents find objectionable.

One of the Senate’s first chaplains, the Rev. William White, gave prayers in a series that included the Lord’s Prayer, the Collect for Ash Wednesday, prayers for peace and grace, a general thanksgiving, St. Chrysostom’s Prayer, and a prayer seeking ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c …’”

Justice Kennedy continued in Greece v. Galloway:

“The decidedly Christian nature of these prayers must not be dismissed as the relic of a time when our Nation was less pluralistic than it is today.

Congress continues to permit its appointed and visiting chaplains to express themselves in a religious idiom …

To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures … and the courts … to act as … censors of religious speech …

Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy …”

Kennedy added:

“Respondents argue, in effect, that legislative prayer may be addressed only to a generic God.

The law and the Court could not draw this line for each specific prayer or seek to require ministers to set aside their nuanced and deeply personal beliefs for vague and artificial ones.

There is doubt, in any event, that consensus might be reached as to what qualifies as generic or nonsectarian …”

Kennedy continued:

“While these prayers vary in their degree of religiosity, they often seek peace for the Nation, wisdom for its lawmakers, and justice for its people, values that count as universal and that are embodied not only in religious traditions, but in our founding documents and laws …

The first prayer delivered to the Continental Congress by the Rev. Jacob Duché on Sept. 7, 1774, provides an example:

‘Be Thou present O God of Wisdom and direct the counsel of this Honorable Assembly;

enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations;

that the scene of blood may be speedily closed;

that Order, Harmony, and Peace be effectually restored, and the Truth and Justice, Religion and Piety, prevail and flourish among the people.

Preserve the health of their bodies, and the vigor of their minds, shower down on them, and the millions they here represent, such temporal Blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting Glory in the world to come.

All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Saviour, Amen …’”

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy concluded the Greece v. Galloway decision, May 5, 2014::

“From the earliest days of the Nation, these invocations have been addressed to assemblies comprising many different creeds …

Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.”

 

Original here