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American Christian Connection
August 8, 2022

Auburn Basketball Team Baptized in Jordan River during Israel Tour: 'Once-in-a-Lifetime'

Players from one of college basketball’s most prominent teams took part in a baptism ceremony in the Jordan River last week during an off day as part of the team’s summer international tour.  The Auburn men’s basketball team – which is expected to be ranked for the 2022-23 season – has visited multiple historical sites in Israel in recent days, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which tradition says was the site of Christ’s empty tomb. On Friday, the players were baptized in the Jordan River. The team’s official social media account posted pictures of the baptisms.

Florida Moves to Ban Transgender Treatments on Children: It's 'Aligned with the Truth'

On Friday, the Florida Board of Medicine took a major step toward banning transgender treatments for minors by advancing a proposed rule prohibiting children and teens from receiving hormone therapy and from undergoing gender surgery.  The 15-member board, with only one "no" vote, advanced the proposed rule, thus launching a process that will take several months and elicit feedback from the public. Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who supports the proposed rule, told reporters that the recommendations are "aligned with the truth." "By truth, I mean truth in science, in terms of what we actually know versus what people want to happen," Ladapo said, according to "I feel like this is a recurring theme. Unfortunately, it is a recurring theme where we are seeing political beliefs overtake scientific reasoning, scientific data." Children who are struggling with their gender identity, he said, need counseling – not drugs and surgery.

Nondenominational Churches Are Adding Millions of Members. Where Are They Coming From? 
It’s not mainline traditions anymore.

Over the last decade Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and every other Protestant family has declined except for those who say they are nondenominational. The 2020 US Religion Census, due out later this year, tallied 4,000 more nondenominational churches than in 2010, and nondenominational church attendance rose by 6.5 million during that time.

This Week's Thought

by Brad Campbell

Just a thought to help start your week.

One of my favorite sights in New Orleans would be the trolleys running up and down Canal Street.  Although I’ve never ridden one, I’ve watched many.  They are identified by the red paint color and the ringing bells.

New Orleans can provide a sensory overload of sorts.  There is so much to see.  Now, granted, I have seen some things there that should never be seen.  There are so many sounds, too, especially the loud jazz music played on the street corners or by a group of individuals marching down the middle of the street, oblivious to the vehicles trying to make their way through the mobs.  But I’ve also heard some things and had some things said to me there that should never be said.

I’ve witnessed the throwing of the beads during the parades, I’ve felt the downpour of drenching rains while caught walking through the French Quarter, I’ve seen the public drunkenness and all states of dress or lack thereof.  I’ve also been witness to the smells of New Orleans, from the wafting odors of fresh beignets, very strong coffee, and fried alligator to the very unpleasant smells of public nastiness unworthy of mention.  And yet, through it all, it is such a fascinating place to visit.

Our lives are full.  Parts are pleasant, but some are far from it.  There is the sweet smelling blessing but also the nose burning smell of sin.  There are the beauties in our world, such as the ornate St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, and then there are the unpleasantries of the bums sprawled out in the middle of the public walkways.  Life brings a variety of experiences to us.  And each and every one of them make us who we are today.

New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans without every single one of the things I mentioned above.  Every one of those things enhances the experience.  Every one of the things we go through, or even step in, in our lives enhances our witness.  The nastiness helps us appreciate the beauty.  The sour smells help us appreciate the sweet aromas.

As you meander through the back alleyways of your week ahead, be ever mindful of the sounds you hear, the sights you see, and the places you step.  You just might not truly appreciate the beauty of life without them.

Just a thought.

Why Christians Need Persistence and Spiritual Tenacity 

by Jim Denison

Last Friday, Mayah Zamora walked out of University Hospital in Uvalde, Texas, sixty-six days after she was shot in three limbs during the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24. The hospital said of their ten-year-old patient, “She is our hero, and we can’t wait to see all she accomplishes in the future!” 

In other good news, Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to a truce in Gaza last night following three days of fighting between Israeli forces and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad; the ceasefire appears to be holding this morning. In bad news, China is expanding its military exercises around Taiwan today as President Xi Jinping continues to build what he calls a “comprehensive” system for enhancing China’s security abroad and at home, including invasive systems for monitoring Chinese citizens.

In more bad news, Ukrainian military are fortifying their positions around the eastern city of Sloviansk as they anticipate a fresh Russian assault in the region. The polio virus appears to be spreading in New York State. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding that Hollywood stop filming in conservative states.


Here’s what these stories have in common: they illustrate the power—for good or for evil—of persistence.

Mayah Zamora reminds every person suffering injury or illness that tenacity is a daily choice. The latest conflict in Gaza shows us that Israel is still surrounded by enemies. China’s leaders are playing the “long game” in their quest for global dominance. Vladimir Putin is doing the same in his ambition to rebuild the Russian Empire. Despite remarkable medical advances, we are still mortal. And the “culture wars” will be fought as long as there are two sides to fight.

Unfortunately, persistence is not a popular value in American culture today.

We are conditioned to be consumers who can have whatever we want whenever we want it. Between easy (and dangerous) credit card debt and on-demand shopping and delivery services, waiting for what we want is largely a thing of the past. 

But there’s more to the story. Our existentialist worldview elevates the individual over the collective. Postmodern relativism has convinced us that “my truth” is just as true as “our truth.” Materialism values what it can measure, thus prioritizing the present over the future. Secularism discounts the spiritual, thus focusing on the temporal over the eternal.


By contrast, it’s hard to find someone in the Bible used greatly by God who did not emulate persistence. Abraham had to wait twenty-five years from the time God called him to leave his father’s house (Genesis 12:4) to the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:5). Moses was exiled for forty years in the desert before he met God in the burning bush and spent another forty years leading the Jews to the edge of their Promised Land.

In Jeremiah 25, the prophet declared to the people of Judah, “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened” (v. 3).

Jesus taught us, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7); the Greek is translated literally, “Ask and keep on asking.” Solomon observed, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). Paul exhorted us, “Do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13; cf. Galatians 6:9).

This injunction especially encourages me: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).


Why do you need persistence today? What challenges in your life call for spiritual tenacity? Let’s close with three biblical responses.


Our Lord calls us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The Message translates this command: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” When last did you “step out of the traffic” to be alone with your Father?


When we are faithful in hard times, others take note. Paul praised the Thessalonian Christians for such tenacity: “We ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all you're persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). When others see us suffer in faith, they are drawn to our Father.


As opposition to our faith continues to escalate, American Christians may be called to pay a higher price for following Jesus than ever before. But temporal courage in the service of transcendent truth is always a worthy sacrifice.

Over the weekend I learned of Rupert Brooke, a British poet who volunteered to serve his country in World War I but died of an infection at the age of twenty-seven. Reading his work, I found his autobiographical poem titled “The Soldier”:

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field 

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Can we be less grateful to serve the Lord of heaven today?

How to Rise above Mediocre Expectations

by Dr. David Jeremiah

We spend a lot of life figuring out if we “measure up,” a phrase someone coined in the mid-1800s. Even in childhood, we begin comparing ourselves with siblings and kids at school, and it never seems to stop. The problem goes back to Cain and Abel, doesn’t it? 

Most of the time, we don’t go about the “measuring up” process in a wise way. The result? The way we feel about ourselves takes a battering, and the way we evaluate others is skewed.

Romans 12:3 says we should think of ourselves “with sober judgment” (NIV). There’s only one accurate measurement that leads to a healthy self-assessment. Have you found it? What is your measure? Your standard? Your mark? Is it a true one?

Have you heard of the little boy who found a long stick and cut notches he assumed to be accurate measurements? He went running to his mother and said, “Mom! I made this ruler and measured myself! I’m seven feet tall!”

If we use the wrong measurements, our self-perception will be biased. The only true way of measuring up is given in Ephesians 4:13, which says we should strive to “be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (NLT).

He is the Man of our measure, the only One with whom we should make comparisons. A little soul searching might reveal we compare ourselves to friends and neighbors more than we do to the Lord. We’re prone to say, “At least, I’m not as bad as so and so ...” We can find a million ways to feel better about how we’re performing, but that leads to a mediocre life. We need to identify the Man to whom we should compare ourselves. Our expectations about how we’re to live shouldn’t be from our society; we should measure up to the full and mature standard of Christ.

Let’s get specific about Christlikeness.

First, consider His blameless character. There was never a hint of immorality or an inkling of greed. No lie passed His lips nor did any abusive attitude darken His personality. He didn’t yield to anxiety or resort to exasperation. He was kind without being gullible, gentle without being weak, and wise without being smug.

None of us are like Him, but we can grow more like Him, and that’s what the Bible commands in Ephesians 4:13, to mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

As you face the troubles of daily life and respond to its challenges, keep your eyes on Jesus and walk by faith. In the process, the Spirit will correct, mature, and make you more Christlike.

As we study the teachings of Jesus in Scripture, we also learn to measure up to His conversational skills. He was just as comfortable talking to a leading rabbi as to an adulterous woman. When necessary, He could speak sharply. But there was never a wasted word, and the people were amazed for “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

We all know from experience how easily we can say something foolish. But the more we read the “red letters” in the Gospels and study the words of the Lord Jesus, the more we’ll emulate the patterns of His speech and measure up to the wisdom of His words.

Christlikeness also involves conduct. I’m amazed at how Jesus moved through life with grace and with graciousness. I’ve read the story of His rejection in Nazareth many times, and I’ve been to where it happened—Mount Precipice in Nazareth, where the crowd sought to throw Him down a cliff. How did He escape? Luke 4:30 simply says, “Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

We’re left to wonder how that happened! It seems Jesus conducted Himself with such deportment that the crowd parted like the Red Sea and He went His way. Can we have that level of poise in our conduct? Maybe not, but the Bible does tell us: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Novelist Michael Phillips remembers the day he began praying a very personal prayer: “God, make me like Jesus.” That became a lifelong quest. He wrote, “I have been asking God to develop Christlikeness within me for thirty-five years. It is sometimes difficult to see much headway. But I continue to pray it ... It is a quiet prayer, a personal prayer, a humbling prayer, an invisible prayer.”

It’s a prayer God answers day by day as our conduct increasingly reminds people of Jesus and we rise above the mediocre expectations of the world.

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