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[Cfamily]My Special Gift to You: A Free, Downloadable Advent Devotional
« Reply #376 on: November 19, 2016, 07:13:26 AM »

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My Special Gift to You: A Free, Downloadable Advent Devotional

Nearly two dozen Christian leaders contributed reflections on the birth of Christ

Each year at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism we create an Advent/Christmas resource to inspire and equip believers to show and share the love of Jesus in a lost and broken world.

In the past, we’ve created Speaking the Story at Christmas, a video series to help us begin faith conversations with family, friends, and neighbors during the holiday season. Last year, we created Conversations at Christmas, in which we compiled the histories of 12 Christmas items and traditions that have Christian origins or customs attached to them. These are designed to help us begin a faith conversation around common items, songs, and traditions.

This year—my first as Executive Director of the BGCE—we are offering a FREE downloadable PDF called Where the Light Shines Brightest. We created this 25-day devotional to help all of us begin to imagine how our own personal reflection on the birth of Jesus Christ can inform and transform how we show and share the love of Jesus with a broken and hurting world. Each daily devotional includes a short reflection on the birth of Christ and a prayer for applying this revelation to our gospel witness in the world today.

Nearly two dozen Christian leaders have contributed to this resource. We’ve asked a number of Christian leaders to contribute, including Jamie Aten, Jon Bloom, Laurel Bunker, Kevin Harney, Kim Reisman, Mary Schaller, Sadiri Joy Tira, Tuvya Zaretsky, and others, including several of our BGCE directors.

When we began putting this devotional together, we had little idea of the pain and brokenness that would result from this election and how much ‘light’ is needed during this especially dark season. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and ...

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[Cfamily]A Quiet Love Story Speaks Volumes in ‘Loving’
« Reply #377 on: November 20, 2016, 07:06:13 AM »
A Quiet Love Story Speaks Volumes in ‘Loving’

The film portrays the interracial couple who made history.

Rich and Mildred Loving love each other. It’s as simple as that.

Living in a seemingly serene pocket of rural Virginia, the two travel to Washington, DC, after Mildred gets pregnant and marry in the simplest of ceremonies. The Lovings want what any couple in 1958 wants: to own a home close to their families, to raise a family of their own, and to live in peace.

However, the outside world can’t see anything but what they’ve deemed unacceptable: a white man married to a black (and Native American) woman. Someone calls in a tip to the police, who break into the Lovings’ home in the middle of the night and arrest them. Despite the marriage certificate hung proudly on the wall and Mildred’s pregnancy, the Lovings are banished from the state of Virginia for being married to each other. When Mildred grows weary of DC, she writes an appeal to Robert Kennedy. Their case makes it to the Supreme Court, and the rest is—literally—history.

Loving v. Virginia is a landmark case for civil rights and marriage equality, and I expected such a historic decision to produce a court-focused movie, but Loving isn’t about that at all. There’s less than a minute dedicated to the Supreme Court hearing, cutting back to focus on the Lovings and their children. When they win the case, we hardly notice the reporters as the couple embraces. This story is about them. Loving is a slow, tender portrait of a marriage, focusing on the way that husband and wife support and care for each other in the day-to-day.

Loving is a quiet film with the same sensory enjoyment and attention to detail that director Jeff Nichols lavished on Mud. It’s slow—at times, perhaps a bit too slow—but it takes its ...

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[Cfamily]The No. 1 Bible Verse and Top 25 Topics of Trump’s Election
« Reply #378 on: November 21, 2016, 07:10:16 AM »
The No. 1 Bible Verse and Top 25 Topics of Trump’s Election

How searches for the end times, praying for government, and other topics changed from 2012 to 2016.

On Election Day, more people were searching the Bible for topics involving the end times than for praying for government.

And the top Bible verse of the 2016 presidential election: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

In the New International Version, the passage reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Many Christians use 2 Chronicles 7:14 as encouragement to pray for their country since it covers a lot of ground (humility, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, healing). Christian leaders like Anne Graham Lotz, Franklin Graham, and Joel Osteen shared the verse in their election remarks, and it was quoted in pastors’ op-eds and letters to the editor in newspapers across the country.

It was even read aloud in Congress on Tuesday, in honor of National Bible Week.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence also referenced 2 Chronicles 7:14 in a CBN interview in October, saying, “It's an important time for us to pray, and I believe what has always been true and is still true today: that if his people who are called by his name will humble themselves and pray, that he'll again hear from heaven and he'll heal our land.”

Florida Southern Baptist pastor Dean Inserra nodded to the verse a month before the election, tweeting, “Somebody take 2 Chronicles 7:14 out of context real quick. We need a God Bless America rally pronto.”

Meanwhile, founder Stephen Smith charted the differences between topical Bible searches around Election Day 2016 when compared to Election Day 2012. Among more than 300,000 queries, notable increases include topics ...

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Source: The No. 1 Bible Verse and Top 25 Topics of Trump’s Election

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Global Evangelical Leaders: Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s Witness

<p class="deck">Conference call explores election consequences on evangelicals overseas.</p>

<p class="text">Some evangelical leaders around the globe worry that the recent US presidential election has damaged Christian moral witness, and will fuel discord abroad.</p>

<p class="text">In a conference call Tuesday, a week after Donald Trump?s win, more than 70 ministry presidents, pastors, and scholars spoke with concern as they discussed the ramifications of the American election on the global church.</p>

<p class="text">The call was organized by Doug Birdsall, a former top leader of the <a href="" class="">Lausanne Movement[/url] and the American Bible Society, as part of his new <a href="" class="">Civilitas Group[/url]. Participants included evangelical representatives from Asia, Europe, and South America, as well as a diverse span of US church leaders.</p>

<p class="text">?One of the things that America was stood for in the past was moral leadership and character. Over the past few decades, it has slowly dissipated,? said Hwa Yung, longtime bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. ?In this election you have produced two candidates, both of whom are deeply flawed in character. The question people around the world are asking is, ?Is this what America is today?? The election has done great damage to your moral standing in the eyes of the world.?</p>

<p class="text">The group of global leaders noted that, <a

Given that the World church has been taken over by Marxists, Trump's witness is likely to be far better than theirs." class="" class="
Disturb us Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little. When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly. To venture on wider seas. Where storms will show your mastery; Where, losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; And to push into the future, in strength, courage, hope and love.                     (SIR FRANCIS DRAKE 1577)


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[Cfamily]The Challenge of Defending the Faith in the Inner City
« Reply #380 on: November 22, 2016, 07:08:48 AM »
The Challenge of Defending the Faith in the Inner City

Traditional apologetics has struggled to address the theological issues of my urban community.

It was hot in Camden. Our church’s evangelism team had stopped on a street known colloquially as the “Heroin Highway” because of its reputation for attracting drug addicts, prostitutes, and violent crime. Hoping to keep our neighbors cool on a recent humid afternoon, we had packed coolers with Italian ice and chilled water to distribute to passers-by. Eager to start conversations with residents about faith, we set up our refreshment table just a few blocks away from our church. Within minutes, residents began flocking to our makeshift refreshment stand.

One older gentleman was particularly friendly. After reaching into the cooler for a beverage, he walked towards me and we shook hands.

“What brought y’all out here today?” he asked me.

Sensing the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I began to share about the faith which had inspired our church’s visit. But as I continued, his friendly demeanor became contentious.

“This is why I can’t stand you stupid n***as,” he stepped forward, and gave me a poke in the chest. “You don’t know anything about your history. Don’t you know that Christianity is a white man’s religion? You’re just regurgitating his racist rhetoric!”

I listened to his frustrations for several minutes before I pushed his hand away.

“You’re wrong,” I said. (I’d heard these claims before and had grown accustomed to hostile exchanges.) “Christianity started in the Middle East, and the gospel traveled to Egypt and Ethiopia the same year that Jesus rose from the dead. Frankly, many of the earliest theologians were from Africa.”

Unsatisfied with my answers, he pelted me with questions for the next 30 ...

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[Cfamily]In Memory: The Man Who Brought Harmony to Billy Graham’s Ministry
« Reply #381 on: November 23, 2016, 07:06:44 AM »
In Memory: The Man Who Brought Harmony to Billy Graham’s Ministry

Music director Cliff Barrows served for decades with a peaceful spirit and joyful song.

When I began work on A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story back in 1986, I made a list of people I wanted to interview. I asked, “How many of these are still alive and how many are still with the ministry?” The answer: “They are all still alive and they are all still with the ministry.” That wasn’t exactly true, but it was remarkably close. Nearly all the men who started out with Billy Graham in the 1940s were still with him 40 years later, and most of the “newcomers” had been with him for at least a quarter century.

I have since watched the inevitable winnowing of this band of spiritual brothers who held up Graham’s arms over more than seven decades of globe-girdling ministry. Almost all are gone, and the recent death of Cliff Barrows, Graham’s music director, closest friend, and most trusted associate, marks the end of one of the most enduring partnerships in evangelistic history. 

The two met in 1945 when Graham, scheduled to speak at a Youth for Christ (YFC) event in Asheville, North Carolina, learned that his regular song leader was not available. Someone suggested he enlist Cliff and Billie Barrows, two young musicians spending their honeymoon in the area. Graham was less than enthusiastic about using an unknown musical team, but he greeted the couple with a smile and said, “No time to be choosy.” The service exceeded expectations and when Graham visited England the next fall for a six-month tour, he invited Cliff and Billie as his musical team.

Barrows joined YFC and enjoyed success not only as a singer and gospel trombonist but also as a gifted evangelist. He intended to continue preaching but accepted the opportunity to assist Graham. Despite ...

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[Cfamily]My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
« Reply #382 on: November 24, 2016, 07:05:34 AM »
My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ

But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.

I couldn’t believe it when I opened my email.

Inside my inbox was an invitation to the 120th anniversary celebration of a church in Osaka—a church founded by my great-grandfather, a 19th-century Presbyterian missionary. The minister had Googled my great-grandfather’s name, and apparently my own name had popped up, along with the text of a speech I had given in Tokyo a few years earlier just after leaving my job as a top official of an international organization in Paris. The topic was “National Identity and International Pressures: Are they compatible?”

I had given hundreds of speeches during my diplomatic career without mentioning my great-grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander. But the challenge of maintaining a cultural identity in the face of a rapidly shrinking world was something he and his adopted countrymen surely would have understood. My hosts posted the speech online, forever linking my name with my great-grandfather’s in cyberspace.

When I read the email, I felt something pulling me toward Japan and the story of my great-grandfather’s struggles and triumphs there. Before long—and against all odds—his example would help launch my own journey of faith.

Shunning Religion

I was born in the flat lowlands of Texas, in the far southeastern corner near the Gulf Coast and Louisiana. My family moved often, going wherever my father’s career as a chemical engineer took us.

Although not particularly religious, my parents occasionally took my brother and me to church. Both had been raised in the church and felt they should expose their children to the Bible and religion.

I remember sitting with my parents in the sanctuary during the beginning of each service, ...

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[Cfamily]Crossing the Wasteland of Faith
« Reply #383 on: November 25, 2016, 07:06:59 AM »
Crossing the Wasteland of Faith

Years after my dramatic, unlikely conversion, it seemed God had gone silent.

I gaze around the tiny room, two chairs and a book shelf, the sunlight streaming through the windows. Stillness is foreign to me, a disquieting realization on this, my first day of a weeklong near-silent retreat. Susan Bowers Baker, a slip of a woman who is the spiritual director of the Jesuit Retreat Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, waits patiently.

I glance at my watch, then up at Susan. “Seven days,” I say. I tap my watch. Tap. Tap. Tap. “I have seven days to fix my relationship with Jesus.”

Susan laughs, and I give her a tentative grin, but when she sees my eyes welling, she falls silent.

“I think I’m having a spiritual crisis,” I confess, as a single, rebellious tear breaks free and rolls down my cheek.

For years I have been struggling with a slow-burning ennui that leaves me bored in prayer, jotting to-do lists as I sit in church, barely giving God a thought as I sprint from one story to another as a reporter for NPR. This malaise is all the more perplexing because of its historical contrast: 14 years earlier, at age 35, I had a surprising and dramatic conversion. At the time, I had thought I was past the age of surprises, and yet there I was, encountering a fellow named Jesus in the most visceral way, an experience that “strangely warmed” my heart long before I read John Wesley’s words. The honeymoon lingered for years: the rich, evocative times of prayer, the minor and almost daily miracles, the sense that God was here, as I rode in a taxi or pulled out my notepad for an interview.

Now, as I sit in that chair in Susan’s spartan office, pausing for a moment in my frenetic life, I feel the silence of an empty soul. It seems to me that God has left the ...

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Source: Crossing the Wasteland of Faith

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