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Christians acting out their faith at home

Only 1 in 4 Christians acting out their faith at home

Twenty-five percent of professing, practicing Christians live in households that regularly pray and practice Bible reading together and conduct outreach together to others, while 28 percent live in a home that does none of the items on that list, according to new research by Barna.

The survey of 2,347 adults and teens who were identified as practicing Christians found that only a minority lived in what Barna termed “spiritually vibrant” households. The poll was conducted in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries as part of Barna’s new Households of Faith report.

The goal of the poll was to examine how Christian homes practiced their faith together, and not as individuals. Christians who lived alone were not included in the survey.

Practicing Christians, according to Barna, are identified as self-identified Christians who “say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month.”

Most practicing Christians, though, don’t live in spiritually vibrant homes.

Barna asked Christians about three elements of their house’s faith practice:

– Spiritual practices – defined here as praying every day or two together and reading the Bible weekly, together.

– Spiritual conversations – defined as talking about God together at least weekly.

– Hospitality – defined as welcoming non-family guests regularly, or at least several times a month.

Only 25 percent of practicing Christians live in households where these three elements are practiced, as defined. Thirty-three percent live in homes that regularly follow “spiritual practices” and “spiritual conversations,” while 14 percent live in households that practice only hospitality. A total of 28 percent of practicing Christians live in homes that never follow these practices.

“Vibrant households stand out in that they have meaningful, fun, quality time with both their housemates and extended household members,” the research said. “… Vibrant households come together for games (32%). They share meals (63% eat breakfast together and 75% eat dinner together) as well as their feelings (59%) on almost a daily basis. Vibrancy also correlates with group discipline, like working on the house or yard together (34% every day or two) or hosting household or family meetings (68%).”

Joshua 24:15  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord

Words in times of Suffering

Words have meaning…

It is tiresome to listen to rhetoric slung about these days, whether from Hollywood movies or politicians. For example, one of the worst is name calling. Children are lured by movies–one that comes to mind is “Despicable Me.”

Some politicians are labeled as crooked who in turn label groups as deplorable.

It is time to move on and remember the Judeo–Christian roots of this nation.

If one is victimized by a bully, there are multiple remedies.

_________________________

Words in times of Suffering

What we say to each other matters. A recent event reminded me of a time several years ago, when a friend shared some personal struggles with someone who was verbally abusive to her.

I listened and then asked her a question. If I called her a name, perhaps saying she was a monkey, did that make her one? She answered, “No.”.
I was trying to inject another way of looking at things into her situation. A different outlook did not undo harsh, unloving comments, but sometimes being able to share concerns will help.

This reminds me of advice from my favorite cousin for times of depression. She said that there are three things to do when one is depressed. One may “get in touch with nature” — perhaps by taking a walk. One may “do something nice for oneself” — possibly with a bubble bath. The last counsel was to “talk to a friend.”

In addition to these ideas, one may turn to the Bible and the Holy Spirit for comfort.

A favorite passage these days comes from I Peter 3:8-17:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous;
Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit;
Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (New King James Version)

God’s way is best

God’s way is best
by Chuck Swindoll

Job 42:1-6

“I’ve come to the end of my understanding, and I leave it at that. My very existence is Yours, O God. It’s Yours to unravel the mystery, to track the labyrinthine ways, to handle the profound, to know the reasons behind the inexplicable events of my life.” In full surrender Job backs off and bows down.

This is Job’s way of acknowledging his inability to understand why, with no further argument, harboring no bitterness. There is no thought of How dare you do this to me? What do we see in Job instead? A broken and contrite spirit. Do you know what Job finally realized? It’s all about God, not me. Job got it! And what does that mean?

God’s purpose is unfolding, and I cannot hinder it.
God’s plan is incredible, and I will not comprehend it.
God’s reproof is reliable, and I dare not ignore it.
God’s way is best, and I must not resist it.

Have you learned those things yet? Have you come to realize that your business is about your God? Your family is about your God. Everything you claim to possess, He owns. Every privilege you enjoy is granted by His grace. None of it is deserved. Job got all that. The question is, have you? Tragically, many don’t get it until faced with impossible moments. God has ways of leveling His own.

How satisfying a submissive life can be. The blend is beautiful: a strong-hearted person, surrendered and humbled with a “broken and contrite spirit”—entertaining no grudges, making no demands, having no expectations, offering no conditions, anticipating no favors, fully repentant before the Lord God. And the marvelous result? The Lord begins to use us in amazing ways. Why? Because the world doesn’t see that unique combination very often.

Job finally sees God for who He really is, and he fully repents. The result is one blessing after another. In fact, double blessing upon double blessing comes his way. Once God placed His mighty hands on the man’s shoulders, Job finally got it. Have

you?

Easter traditions

This Easter, I really sat back and watched all the various groups celebrating (or not celebrating) the holiday. Different groups have different traditions. I think I can quote the arguments for and against each.

But what keeps coming to mind is the verse in John.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s porch”
John 10:22-3

Jesus celebrated a “HOLIDAY” that wasnt “Biblical”.

Many are surprised that the only Bible verse mentioning Hanukkah is found in the New Testament. Perhaps it is simply because the holiday commemorates an event that occurred during the inter-Testamental period, approximately 165 BC. …But if it is “authentic” they argue, it would have been mentioned somewhere else in the New Testiment.

Sola Scripture is the rallying cry against observing Easter.

Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines. (Is Easter celebration a Doctrine?)

Now I am not wanting to argue Hannakkah, but in the same way it is not a “Prescribed” Bible taught, religious holiday, perhaps Easter might not be so bad either.

Perhaps we should rethink what is worth dividing God’s people, and what is really worth arguing about. So if one chooses to celebrate the Resurrection, who am I to disagree?





Jesus Didn’t Die for Our Preferences

By Pastor Tyler Chroniger

There is an on‐going problem in a lot of churches. This might come as a shock to you—or maybe you have not even considered that this is a real thing. Let me provide an example for context. You go to a church business meeting or even a conference business meeting. In that meeting, someone has a “great” idea to change the way things are done. Maybe the organization of committees is “muddy.” Maybe some fundraising effort “needs” to happen. Maybe the “vision” is presented to move the church to a more appropriate neighborhood. Maybe the color of the carpet in the church needs to be changed. Whatever the case may be, what usually happens in these circumstances are arguments and division.

Let me pose this question to you. Did Jesus really die for these things? Did Jesus die for us to argue over budgets, organizational structure, or even carpet color? The answer is an empathic NO!

Clearly, most of us, during this season of the year, take a step back and reflect on what Jesus did on the cross. Our eyes are fixed on His sacrifice and the complete work.

The problem is that come the day after Easter we step back into our routines and get comfortable again. We focus on what is best for us and when someone interferes with that, we get mad.

We try to be open‐minded for new ideas—or at least we say we will. However, when they are presented, we complain and argue against them. What changed? What happened? Jesus didn’t die for our preferences.

When everyone takes it upon themselves to stay focused on the cross of Christ, things change. You grow. You become more and more like Christ. You stop worrying about whether your needs are being met or whether the carpet color really matters. You stop looking at the way things conflict with what you desire. You relax. You realize that preferences don’t really matter.

What matters is the will of God. What matters is our desire to become more and more like Christ. What matters is that we grow and change into better versions of ourselves. What matters is what Paul says in just about every letter he wrote in the New Testament: “Everything I do, I do for Christ.” This concept is flowing through his letters.

There is a difference between thinking we are doing something for Christ and doing something for Christ. Most of our arguments come from the fact that we think we are doing something for Christ. We think we are protecting something that simply doesn’t matter. We think we need to because it is righteous and honorable. Let me challenge that by saying that it doesn’t matter.

Our goal for ourselves should be growth—becoming more and more like Christ. If we aren’t growing, then what’s the point? What’s the point in going to church? What’s the point in reading our Bibles or praying?

The goal is growth to become more and more like Jesus. When we grow, things don’t matter. When we grow, people around us grow. When we grow, we change our narrow focus on the “stuff” to the big things God wants to do in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in our local and global body of believers. God wants His will to be done.

So while it is Easter time and we start to reflect again on Jesus, don’t let it stop there. Evaluate yourself: Does what I do measure up with what God wants to be done? Get to know Him more through worship, praise, petition, intercession, and whatever else you can think of. The more you lean into Jesus, the more you will grow. The more you learn from the Master the more you will grow. The more you meditate on Him the more you will grow. The more you let go and let God, the more your focus becomes not on preferences, but on His work, and what He can do through you.

By Pastor Tyler Chroniger  

Can you do 12 stones?

Each new year I encourage my kids to remember milestones in their lives thru a Twelve Stone tradition Joshua 4:1-8. We choose 12 rocks from our yard and place them in A row and aided by journals and calendars we each made lists of ways we have seen God working in our lives during the past 12 months. My kids faces lit up as we picked up one stone at a time and shared our recollections, intentionally remembering how God had answered prayers guiding our family through the new year.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble remembering 12 stone worthy events from the past 12 months! I am not proud to admit it, but it is true.   The last time I made my 12 stone list, I had just gone thru 5 years of severe caregiving, three funerals, and my own health crisis. I had lots of good material to choose from!

But the last couple of years, life has slowed down into a comfortable routine. There have been few and minimal crisis in the family. So finding 12 Stone worthy events is much harder.

It seems that in the “good times” I seem to sort of forget about God or at best take Him for granted.

How about you? How full is your “Thank” meter?

Our Speech

Our Speech
by Chuck Swindoll

Colossians 4:5-6

MR PIGS . . . MR NOT PIGS . . . OSAR . . . CM PENZ . . . LIB . . . MR PIGS.

Okay, give it a whirl. Read all those words again and translate. If you can—I can tell you what part of the country you’re from. Your speech will betray you . . . it does every time.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was talking with a group of visitors following a morning service. Several were from different sections of our nation. All, of course, spoke English, but a few possessed a distinct dialect that revealed their roots. I had a little fun by looking at them and asking things like, “When did you move from New York?” or “How long has it been since you left New England?” Both guesses were correct.

I had the most fun with a couple from Noth Cawline-ah (emphasis on “line”). I missed and guessed Geow-gha . . . and they were flabbergasted that I’d have the nerve to put ’em in that camp. I mean, after all!

But it’s the Texan and Oklahoman that I get the biggest kick out of. Uh, ‘scuse me, I shoulda said git. Unless yore raised duwn thar or have Walt Garrison nearby as a translator, you need a glossary of terms to carry witcha:

Spoken Written
May-on Man
Eggs-it Exit
Thang Thing
Ray-inch Ranch
Far Fire
Day-ins Dance
Bob war Barbed wire
Gittin sum hep Getting some help
Harney toe Horned toad
Awl beniss Oil business
Fixin’ta Getting ready
Ornj drank Orange drink
Sherf Sheriff
Frog strangler Big rain storm

 

It helps to have a pinch ‘tween your cheek ‘n’ gums . . . then those words kinda tumble outa your mouth real natural. Good ole boys readin’ this ain’t laughin’ ’cause we’re the ones who talk funny. Like they’d have no trouble a’tall with that exam I started with:

MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs.” MR NOT PIGS “em are not pigs!” OSAR . . . “Oh, yes, ‘ey are.” CM PENZ . . . “See ’em pens?” . . . LIB . . . “ul be!” MR PIGS . . . “em are pigs!”

I had a guy tell me that that is part of the entrance exam into Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A & M. Why not? If ya cain’t read plain ole American stuff, you ain’t got no beniss goin’ on to college! I better stop this nonsense or we’ll never git through.

We can dress up, move away, run with another crowd, and try to keep our roots a secret, but our speech won’t cooperate. There it is, plain as day for all to hear. Remember? That’s what happened to Peter. Backsliding at breakneck speed, the once-loyal disciple tried to fake it by the fire that night they arrested Jesus. But a girl pointed him out. Picture the scene as Mark records it:

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (Mark 14:66–70 NIV)

He could hide his face, but not his speech. His Galilean “drawl” was clearly distinguishable, even in the wee hours of the morning. So what did he do to convince his accusers otherwise? The next verse answers that question:

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Galilean or Judean . . . now it didn’t matter. He spoke words they all understood. Profanity blurted out publicly in any language or dialect makes it clear—even to total strangers—that the one swearing lives at a distance from the living God. Amazing . . . not another person in the crowd that night accused Peter any further. His street speech was sufficiently convincing.

Nobody ever said it better than the teacher from Tarsus:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Looking for ways to make your witness more gracious, more winsome? Interested in communicating Christ’s love and in building bridges that attract others to Him? Start with your speech . . . and don’t worry if folks can guess what part of the country you’re from. It’s when they would never guess you are a Christian that you’ve got something to worry about.

Lookalikes

Lookalikes | Our Daily Bread(5/24/2017)

As we “contemplate the Lord’s glory,” by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we can grow more and more like Him. What an amazing thing it would be if people could observe us and say, “I see Jesus in you”!

Lord, help us to gaze on You, to study You, to know You. Transform us into Your image by what we say, how we love others, and how we worship You. May others see Jesus in us.

Love is the family resemblance the world should see in followers of Christ.

INSIGHT:

After having communed with God for some eighty days and nights (Ex. 24:18; 34:28), Moses’s face shone, reflecting and radiating the holiness and glory of God (34:29–35).

When he came down from Mt. Sinai with the law, the people were afraid to come near him. Thereafter, Moses wore a veil over his face, seemingly to protect the Israelites from prolonged exposure to God’s glorious holiness. Thousands of years later, the apostle Paul adds that Moses veiled himself to prevent the Israelites from seeing that this glory was fading away (2 Cor. 3:13).

Using Moses’s experience, Paul reminds us of the great privilege Christians have today. Just as Moses was able to enter God’s holy presence without the veil (Ex. 34:34–35), anyone who believes in Jesus also has this privilege (2 Cor. 3:14, 16). The Holy Spirit gives us unencumbered and unrestricted access into God’s holy presence (v. 17) and will enable us to “see and reflect the glory of the Lord, [making] us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (v. 18 NLT).

In what ways are you like your heavenly Father? How is exposure to God’s holiness through His Word changing you to look more like Christ?

By Dave Branon

Be Careful to Whom You Listen

Be careful to whom you listen

I was reading an article the other day and suddenly was compelled to open up the Bible and check out the scripture reference.   What I found is that the author had quoted the Scripture word for word, but I am not sure it should be. The verse was Job 36:11… If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures

This was presented as a promise of God. A promise to the believer. But upon closer study, I am not sure this is a quote we should hang onto. Why? Keep reading.

Job Chapter 36 (Elihu Extols God’s Greatness)  “Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf. I will get my knowledge from afar and ascribe righteousness to my Maker.   For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you. … If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures

Now read what God has to say about the “Wisdom” found in the previous chapter.

Job Chapter 37  “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”

 God Himself said that Job 36:11 was words without knowledge! I don’t really think I want to make that one of my memory verses! I don’t think that the idea or truth of Job 36:11 is one I want to put into my belief system.

We need to be careful when we accept scripture quotes. Often they are taken out of context and/or omit a significant part, that when included, offers a totally different meaning. Yes they sound good, but are they really what God meant?

 

Let God Take Control

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, control is “to have power over” something. As humans, we love to have control over the things that we do . We love to have a plan. We have grown up hearing advice like this: “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” “Follow your heart!”

Nevertheless, when things don’t go the way we’ve planned, we can f eel disappointed, unfulfilled, anxious , sad— even angry. We might have pictured our lives differently than they’ve turned out to be.

But what does the Bible say about control? Are we called to carefully determine every detail of our lives, and expect them to come true? Are we called to strive for a planned life? Not quite.

I. Let Go.

For Christians, the process does no t start with our “plans” o r desires. We are called to deny ourselves.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24

2. (Fully) Obey

Often times God tells us to do things that don’t seem logical, o r normal! Sometimes He commands us to take a plunge at something we are completely new to . It can be scary! Nonetheless, whenever God tells you to do something, do it. Be diligent. Follow through.

It can be something as simple as praying and reading your Bible each morning to something as radical as leaving your job or serving as a missionary in a faraway country. Whichever the case, don’t try t o find a middle ground between your current desires and God’s will. Half obedience is disobedience. In the Bible, we can see what can happen if we don’t obey God. The result isn’t pretty.

In 1 Samuel, God told Saul (a young man whom the Israelites chose as king) to destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. Saul did!…sort of . He kept all the sheep and oxen, instead of getting rid of them, as God had commanded him. He did not follow God’s word all the way.

To make it worse, instead o f acknowledging that he had – indeed- disobeyed, Saul started justifying his actions. Saul said to him “…I have performed the commandment of the Lord!”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me!

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He also has rejected you from being king.”

Ouch. Saul’s acts o f disobedience cost him his crown. Often times we hinder God’s blessings for our lives because o f this one thing. Obedience is key! Either we are following the Lord, or we are not.

Is there anything God has told you to do that you’ve been “half ” obeying?

3. Expect warfare

The Christian life is perfect! NOT. Contrary to popular belief , we are actually called to expect trials and warfare.

As we get closer to God, we are a bigger threat to the enemy, so he’s going to do anything possible to make us fall.

1 Peter 5:8 says “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

If we are not strong with Christ, life’s circumstances will take us off guard and can knock us off our feet. Nevertheless, if we cling to God, He holds us:

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23- 24

We are called to be vigilant; to remain constantly in prayer, read the Word and get together with other believers.

We have to seek Him daily! Don’t trust in yourself . If things are going good, don’t lay back. Don’t get comfortable.

“Therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall“ 1 Corinthians 10:12

The good part? God promises to give us peace in the midst of trials and uncertainty:

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:21- 22

Peter was asking Jesus about John.

Jesus’ response? “That does not concern you! Just follow me!” How often are we like this! We see other people being successful at different areas o f their lives and we start asking the Lord: “what about me?”

5. Don’t doubt God’s ability to take care of you

Often times, we look at our circumstances and we get anxious if things don’t go as planned.

Not knowing or being certain of our future can also be a factor that is the start of worries in our minds. We find it hard to trust God is in control of our lives. We don’t have peace.

Yet, when we commit our lives to Christ, He commands us to do this one thing: “Be still and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10

This anxiety that we feel stems from one very determining thing: we doubt God’s ability to take care of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future .”

Do you believe this to be true? Is your vision of God hindering your ability to trust in Him and let go?

God knows what you need, and when you need it. Trust that He will take care of you! He is able.

6. Rid yourself of presumptions, “what if ’s”, and what you think “should” happen

“Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp.” Numbers 14:44

In Numbers, we can see that when God told the people o f Israel to conquer the land, they doubted. They were afraid, so they didn’t do it. They didn’t embrace God’s plan for them. They didn’t trust God would take care of them. They assumed control.

Later, they regretted it, but it was too late to go . It wasn’t God’s time or way anymore, yet they presumed they could still do it. Even when God warned He would not be with them, they trusted in their strength and tried to conquer the land. They lost that battle.

Often times we presume that things should go a certain way. We think: “If God was with me, this shouldn’t have happened!” “If this was truly God’s will, this and that should have happened by now!”

Nevertheless, God sees the bigger picture. He sees the purpose for every little detail in your life. Whenever you start assuming or over- thinking details in your life, look to His promises. God tells us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.“ Isaiah 55:8- 9

We need to get rid of presumptions, “what if ’s” and over- thinking. We need to let go and not be anxious. God’s in control. He has your best interest.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace o f God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6- 7

That being said, seek Him continuously.

Read the Bible.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” 2 Timothy 3:16- 17

Pray.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…” Ephesians 6:18. “Pray without ceasing“ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Sometimes, Go d will call us to retreat – to go away from our daily routines and seek Him.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and He said to me, ‘Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.’” Ezekiel 3:22

Don’t get too busy. Like the popular saying goes: If you’re too busy to spend time with God, you’re too busy.