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American Christian Connection
September 6, 2022

Embracing the Liturgy of Labor Day

As we shift gears from the glories and exhaustions of summer to the rhythmic academic calendar schedule of fall, we have a chance to reexamine our relationship with work and rest—to reflect on what these concepts mean to us and why they should always be considered together.

On the one hand, we cannot talk about work and rest without acknowledging the privilege associated with both. With job loss on the rise for the past two years, it is a privilege to be employed—and with the cost of living as high as it is these days, it is a luxury to be able to choose to take a break from work and seek rest.

At the same time, the Lord invites his followers into a way of life that includes a mindset of working unto him (Col. 3:17) and resting like our Creator (Gen. 1; Heb. 4:9–10).

Candace Cameron Bure Urges Fans to Read Bible Daily: It is 'Living and Active'

Great American Channel actress and filmmaker Candace Cameron Bure is urging fans to read their Bible daily, calling it a “sign of obedience” that will fill them with mercy and love.

“We read the Word of God every day because it is a sign of obedience to Him, while it also fills us with His Spirit. His goodness, His mercy, His love, etc.,” Bure wrote while posting a verse: “Hebrews 4:12 – ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’”

Samaritan’s Purse Aids Victims of Deadly Monsoon Flooding in Pakistan

Evangelical Christian group Samaritan’s Purse is providing emergency relief to thousands of families in Pakistan, where floods have killed more than 1,200 people, damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and displaced nearly half a million people.

The relief group, led by evangelist Franklin Graham, said it's working with local partners to provide critical supplies such as food, water filtration kits, heavy-duty shelter material and hygiene kits throughout the hardest-hit areas.

The floods in the provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh have killed at least 1,265 people, including 441 children, and 12,577 others have been injured, the South Asian country’s National Disaster Management Authority said Saturday.

Pakistan’s government has said about 33 million people, which is about 15% of Pakistan’s population, have been affected by flooding caused by record-breaking rainfall.

This Week's Thought

by Brad Campbell

Just a thought to help start your week.

I am not a fan of heights.  I have climbed a few ladders, but I always find it easier to go up than to come back down.  As a young teen, I was on my grandparents’ roof many times cleaning off debris or taking care of some such item on my grandmother’s to-do list she mentally prepared before I arrived.  And yet, getting from the rooftop back onto the ladder was often the scariest part of the job.  I’ve climbed pecan trees in the fall to shake the big limbs, allowing the nuts to rain down.  Thankfully, this ‘nut’ never fell out!

Why do I tell you that?  Well, strangely enough, I find that very high places wherein I can be safely enclosed don’t bother me in the least.  I’ve been to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, a few times.  I can see for miles across Missouri in one direction or Illinois in the opposite direction just across the river below.  In this view, I was facing eastward, downtown St. Louis in the foreground.  

Just off to the left, you see Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Down that main street, about three-quarters of the way, one can spot Union Station which was once a grand hub for transportation.  And near the bottom right is the museum referred to as the “Old Courthouse,” where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case took place in 1847 and 1850, part of a decade-long fight for freedom by an enslaved man.

On the ground, I have walked to all of these places, and I have seen the architecture, the height, and the intrigue of each.  However, by looking down from above, I have a completely different vantage point and can see so much more.  Because I rose to heights that challenged my idea of safety, because I stepped out of my comfort zone, because I did something I sometimes fear, and allowed myself to be many feet into the air, I received the benefit of the fantastic views.  And, those views added to the knowledge I already had of each place.

Sometimes changing our physical perspective can positively influence our spiritual perspective.  By stepping out of our comfort zone and going someplace we might not normally go, we gain a new perspective on other God-loved people around us.  By visiting and ministering to those we normally haven’t, we can see beauty we’ve not seen in our regular routines.

I challenge you to channel the inner “Star Trek” in you.  This week, go somewhere you’ve never gone before, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, and allow yourself to meet and see others from God’s glorious vantage point.  Once there, you’ll find it isn’t nearly as scary as you thought!

A Sin You and I Are Especially Tempted to Commit

by Jim Denison

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is Britain’s new prime minister. She will formally replace Boris Johnson today when she is appointed to her office by Queen Elizabeth II.

The queen has appointed all fourteen of her previous prime ministers at Buckingham Palace in London. However, the ninety-six-year-old monarch is staying at her holiday home in Scotland between August and October. To keep her from having to travel, the new prime minister will travel to her for a ceremony unlike any other in the queen’s seventy-year reign.

British prime ministers lead the political party that gains enough elected seats in Parliament to form a ruling coalition. If their party no longer supports their leadership, as happened with Boris Johnson, they can be forced to resign. Or if a general election replaces their party, as happened with Winston Churchill in 1945, they are replaced as well.

In other words, the new prime minister will only be prime minister so long as her party supports her and her party wins the next general election (which must be held no later than 2025).

Great Britain’s elective system and the advanced age of her queen both illustrate the finitude of the human condition. Here’s another example: former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was buried in Moscow last Saturday. According to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin did not attend the funeral because he was too busy.

What Mr. Putin may not realize is that one day the funeral will be his. He is sixty-nine years old; life expectancy for males in Russia is sixty-eight. Americans should take note: our average life expectancy fell from nearly seventy-nine years in 2019 to seventy-six in 2021.

Here’s some good news: new COVID-19 boosters are expected to be made available this week. The new vaccine will be updated for the first time to target the latest version of the virus.

However, according to one epidemiologist, we can still expect that every year, around 50 percent of Americans will be infected with the virus and more than one hundred thousand will die.

As another illustration of our mortality, Ukraine’s Minister of Energy warned yesterday that the “world is once again on the brink of nuclear disaster” after heavy shelling brought down Europe’s largest nuclear plant’s transmission line. New research has determined that there are no health benefits, only dangers, from drinking alcohol. A Denver woman fell nine hundred feet to her death while climbing in Colorado. An earthquake in China has killed at least sixty-five people.

And our greatest threats may be threats we don’t yet know to exist: NASA is planning a very special lab for handling samples that will eventually be returned to our planet from Mars. The reason is frightening: Martian pathogens could spawn a pandemic for which we have no defenses.

Yesterday we noted that “the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11). Here is what he does not “take pleasure in”: the sin of presumption.

Today’s stories illustrate the biblical precept, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). Scripture warns, “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Unfortunately, the sin of presumption is especially tempting for those of us who seek to follow Christ. We know that we have become the children of God when so many have not (John 1:12). We study his word, pray, attend worship, contribute our tithes and offerings, and read content like this Daily Article when so many do not.

Satan would love for us to commit horrific sins that make headlines, but if we refuse, he will tempt us with “smaller” sins than those that make the news. We might then presume that if we commit these sins but are (apparently) more godly than others, we must be godly enough for God.

But “small” sins grieve the Holy Spirit just like public sins: “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Pride in our apparent godliness is one such sin.

To this end, a statement by Max Lucado seems relevant today: “I’m wondering if you’d be willing to join me in a prayer of repentance—repentance from arrogance. What have we done that God didn’t do first? What do we have that God didn’t first give us? Have any of us ever built anything that God could not destroy? Have we ever created any monument that the master of the stars can’t reduce to dust?”

Max concludes: “Let’s humble ourselves before the hand of God. The Bible reminds us that those who walk in pride, God is able to humble. And we don’t want him to humble us, do we?”

Today’s theme became personal for me when I learned, as I noted earlier, that Americans’ life expectancy has dropped to 76.1 years. For a male like me born in 1958, life expectancy is even shorter—just seventy-four years. That is just ten more years. Said differently, according to actuarial tables, I have only 520 more weeks to live.

Now, I agree with David’s prayer to God, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15). My grandfather lived to be ninety-nine years old. However, my father died at fifty-five. I have no idea if this is my last Daily Article or if I’ll be writing for another twenty years.

But I do know this: I must refuse the related temptations to presume that I will be here tomorrow and that I am all I need to be today. I need to be a “living sacrifice” to God every day that I live (Romans 12:1), abiding constantly and intentionally in the presence of Christ (John 15:5) and surrendered unconditionally to the leading and empowering of his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

So do you.

Oswald Chambers noted, “The secret of the missionary is—I am his, and he is carrying out his enterprises through me.” He then added: “Be entirely his.”

Are you “entirely his” yet today?

What Can Homeless Kids Teach Us About Faith and Living Well?

by Rachel Karman

get to lead a ministry for kids who are or have been homeless. Many editors would eliminate the “get to” part of that sentence for brevity’s sake. But without those two words, you might miss the whole point of ministry. I’m honored God has called me into this work; I get to love and be loved by others–-and learn from them too.

The kids I serve live far below the poverty line. Unlike them, I‘ve never experienced homelessness; the closest I came was through a temporary, chosen nomadic life I led for a brief period between jobs and cities. Our friendships have zero degrees of separation; without relationship and proximity, this type of ministry could never work. However, Jesus knew this kind of drawing near was the best way to engage others with the hope of His kingdom promises.

Kids whose realities include living in shelters, on the streets, in cars, or in the homes of friends or relatives face difficult odds. Almost 40% of those who are homeless in the U.S. are under the age of 18, and 57% of homeless kids spend at least one day a month without food. Homeless teenagers are three times more likely to become incarcerated than those with stable shelter, and 50% of adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months because they are often unprepared to live independently and have limited education and no social support.

Those statistics are heartbreaking, but it’s not all grim. In my years of living in proximity to homeless kids, I’ve learned many lessons about faith and how to live well. Here are three:

There is no end to the love of Christ.

It’s easy to think that those born into homelessness are more worthy of our love and care than those who did something terrible and ended up on the street. More times than I can count, I have been humbled to befriend and love those who, for whatever reason, have found themselves homeless. Some of them are in situations because of broken families and communities; others, because of poor decisions. The fact is: Jesus didn’t judge people for being in the situation they were in—He just knew He needed to be with them. And He didn’t turn His back because of someone’s bad choices.

That’s why those on the margins are so important. They've been forgotten and overlooked by most of the world. They’ve been called “voiceless” even when they have a voice—but often, we’re the ones who aren’t listening.

The fact that we have marginalized communities is the opposite of what Jesus stands for. At Young Life One, we have a question we ask of our staff: ”Who did Jesus hang out with and who would you hang out with, if you were Jesus?” Jesus was for the outcast and the widow and the orphan, regardless of how they came to their state. Read, for example, His response to the woman at the well (John 4). The love of Christ has no parameters. It’s extended to all of us.

There is no person too small for the love of Christ.

Many of us have read Luke 15, but how many of us have experienced it? In Luke 15:4-6, we find Jesus telling his disciples a parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

One afternoon during COVID, I got into my car, stopped at the grocery store to pick up food, and drove to the area where some of our kids stay. I sent a text to the team I work with: I’m in Lemon Grove. Who lives near here? One of my leaders responded with a name and address. After I knocked on the door, I was greeted by ten family members who filed into the courtyard of the apartment complex to sit, talk, and eat.

In that moment, I was reminded that while my circumstances are strikingly different from theirs, in many ways, we are all lost sheep. It was the beginning of the pandemic, and we were all lonely, scared, and confused. They may have needed food, but in finding them and bringing it to them, they found me too; they invited me into their space and gave me a seat at their table. They let me see them, and I let them see me. It was a special kind of grace.

Christ is always on the lookout for that person who needs a little extra hope and love—as we should be.

Christ can teach me about Himself through those who are marginalized.

A few years ago, I was volunteering at a fundraiser with one of the girls in the homeless community. In passing, I made what I thought was an innocuous comment about a woman dressed in a silly costume. “That’s such a mom thing to do,” I said. Immediately, a look came over this girl’s face. Later, she told me that my comment had really hurt her feelings, since her relationship with her own mother came with many ups and downs. I immediately asked for her forgiveness and she readily gave it to me. That was Christ in her.

Here’s another example: Not too long ago, I developed COVID. One of the moms of kids I serve drove 40 minutes to bring me soup and let me know she cared. Hospitality and grace are common in homeless communities. Without either, loneliness and fear can easily overcome you.

I’ve also learned about the power of raw, gritty faith—the kind you don’t find elsewhere, the kind that carries you through the next meal or the next sheltered night. I am reminded over and over of how dressed up and whitewashed our faith can become when we only rely on God for excesses like a brand-new car or a victory over an opposing baseball team. Not that these things are bad, but I have seen many homeless youth rely on God for a roof over their heads or the next meal—and I have seen God provide, over and over. It’s incredible. When I see kids come to realize God’s goodness even among the difficulties of their lives, it’s good for me, too. He really is among us.

So when I say I “get to” lead a ministry for kids who are or have been homeless, I mean it. We all get to be part of God’s work in the world, and we get to see Him at work in some of the least likely places. That’s a kingdom promise worth pursuing!

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