American Christian Connection
September 12, 2022
Throughout the course of her unprecedented reign, Queen Elizabeth II spoke frequently about her personal Christian faith. Delivering her first Christmas Address in 1952, a tradition started by her grandfather, King George V, the Queen requested prayer for her upcoming coronation.
“I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day,” she said, “to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”
As one of the world’s most recognizable and celebrated leaders for more than seven decades after that Christmas, the Queen demonstrated how to keep one’s Christian faith personal, private, inclusive, and compassionate while serving in a global, public role under intense scrutiny from virtually every sector.
Steph Curry on Importance of Reading Bible to His Kids: 'That's How I Learned My Faith'
NBA superstar Steph Curry says his parents were integral to his faith journey and that he has made Scripture a central part of his home life with his wife and three children.
Curry, a two-time MVP and four-time NBA champion, made the comments to Fatherly.com while discussing his new children's book, I Have a Superpower, which tells the story of an 8-year-old boy named Hughes who enjoys playing basketball.
Asked to name his favorite childhood books, Curry mentioned the Bible.
"My parents read a lot of Bible stories with me. That's how I learned my faith, so those are very meaningful to me to share with my kids," Curry told Fatherly. "But there wasn't a specific series or book that I had lined up to share with my kids. I tried to be open to what they were interested in. They're old enough now that I take their lead. They come home with Dork Diaries and that type of stuff. I just love the fact that they are reading to me now. They're the storytellers, and I'm the audience, and that makes bedtime more fun."
Homeless, Jobless, Stateless, but not Faithless: Chinese Christian Exiles Denied Asylum , Now Flee to Thailand
A group of Chinese exiles fleeing from religious persecution are seeking asylum in Thailand after being denied refuge in South Korea.
Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, a group of 60 Chinese Christians, said they fled the communist regime in 2019 to escape religious persecution.
"Political pressure is rising, and there's more and more ideological control," said Pastor Pan Yongguang, whose church has been on the run for years. "The persecution is growing worse."
Until then, the group remains stateless, jobless, and homeless, but not without their faith.
"We're thinking of our children's future. We refuse to put their education in the hands of the Communist Party, to give them an atheist education, and to turn their backs on God," said Xie Jianqing, a church elder. "So we're willing to pay this price, to lead our children to flee China to allow them to keep going to church school and to know God."
This Week's Thought
by Brad Campbell
Just a thought to help start your week.
Hurry up and wait. It can sometimes feel as if we spend half our lives waiting on something or someone. We sit in traffic waiting to see if the red light will ever turn green. We show up for an appointment only to wait in a room specifically designed for waiting, before we move on to another little room and wait some more. We wait on the oven to heat up so we can cook dinner. We wait on the car to cool off so we don’t blister our hands on the steering wheel. We wait on things to happen.
You’ve probably, at one time or another, used the phrase, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” meaning, “Let’s wait and see how the situation turns out, and then we will make a decision on what to do.”
The particular bridge in my photo spans the Columbia River and connects the towns of Hood River, Oregon, and Bingen, Washington. It is a toll bridge, meaning you wait in line, out on the bridge, to pay your toll. And, this bridge also happens to be a drawbridge. A drawbridge is designed to open up near the middle, raise up out of the way of passing boats, and allow them to pass. But that means the vehicles attempting to cross the bridge must wait yet again.
Do you ever get tired of waiting on God? Perhaps you’ve asked Him for answers to a question, for healing of yourself or a loved one, for guidance in upcoming circumstances, for wisdom to train your children, or for any number of things. We ask. Then we wait.
Why do you suppose He lets us sit and wait on Him? Perhaps it isn’t that He is not ready to answer. Perhaps it’s because we aren’t ready for the answer He will provide! The more we wait on Him, sometimes the more our true desires, wants, and wishes may change. That waiting period may also be God’s way of telling us to slow down, to not focus so much on the future and its problems, but focus on the time we are granted today.
Maybe you’ve anxiously awaited what this coming week will bring. Wait on Him. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s today He wants us to focus on and experience. Good things really can come to those who wait.
Just a thought.
'We Die to be Raised'
by Jim Denison
I wish I had been in New York City last night to see the “Tribute in Light” in person. Each September 11, two beams, comprised of eighty-eight seven-thousand-watt xenon lightbulbs, are released into the sky to echo the shape and orientation of the Twin Towers. Just seeing the video of the tribute was deeply moving for me.
All of us old enough to remember 9/11 will never forget it: the shock when the first airplane flew into the North Tower, the horror when the second plane struck the South Tower, the buildings spewing smoke into the sky, the people fleeing their burning floors by jumping to their deaths, the attack on the Pentagon, the collapse of the South Tower, the crash in Pennsylvania, the collapse of the North Tower. Less than three hours after the first plane to be hijacked left the Boston airport, the iconic Twin Towers lay in ruins in Lower Manhattan.
A few years earlier, I stood at the base of the World Trade Center. From the ground, I could not see the top of the two towers. That such colossal buildings could be destroyed so quickly is still staggering to me. Each year’s anniversary is another reminder of our finitude, frailty, and mortality.
Another headline in today’s news is a similar reminder: Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrived in Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh yesterday after a six-hour procession from her beloved Balmoral Castle. King Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla are traveling today to join another procession taking the queen’s coffin to St. Giles Cathedral, where it will remain for twenty-four hours so the Scottish public can pay their respects. It will be flown to London on Tuesday.
Charles became king in the moment of his mother’s death, though his coronation could still be months away. In these two facts we find a life principle of transforming hope today.
America is separated from the rest of the world by oceans on the east and west, deserts to the south, and forests and lakes to the north. Except for an abortive attempt by Japanese soldiers to take the Aleutian islands off Alaska in 1942, foreign enemies have not attacked Americans on our soil since the War of 1812.
9/11 changed that calculus forever. As every traveler enduring TSA airport screening knows, our enemies can use American airplanes to kill Americans. Not to mention cyber, chemical, biological, and radiological threats. We can also die of diseases we did not know existed. And, as the pandemic continues to prove, a virus two thousand times smaller than a dust mite can kill more than a million Americans.
If the queen of England, with all her vast resources, is not immune to the frailty of life, no one is. If towers reaching 110 stories tall and built to withstand hurricane-force winds could be felled by airplane hijackers, no occupant in any building is truly safe.
The queen’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603), reportedly said from her deathbed, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” France’s Louis XIV (1638–1715) was the only monarch to rule longer than Queen Elizabeth II. However, his last words were said to his grieving attendants: “Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?”
It is understandable to fear any journey into an experience we cannot see beforehand: stepping into a pitch-black room, attending a new school, working for a new manager. The greater the consequences of our decision, the more fearful we naturally become. Staying at a new hotel provokes far less apprehension than starting a new job.
Death feels so permanent to us. Except for Lazarus and Jesus, no one has come back to our world from the other side. It is therefore the greatest and most fearful unknown.
But St. Athanasius was right: “We no longer die to be condemned, we die to be raised up and await the resurrection of all, which God will bring about at a time of his choosing.”
Here’s why: “One has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
If you have made Jesus your Lord, your “old man” died in the moment that you trusted in Christ (Romans 6:5) and you were “born again” (John 3:3) as a child of God (John 1:12). Now you already “have eternal life” (John 3:16). Note the present tense.
The forty-ninth anniversary of my salvation experience was last Friday. For forty-nine years, I have possessed eternal life. Now, as the child of God, when my body dies (if the Lord tarries), I will in that moment be united with Christ in paradise (Luke 23:43). When I close my eyes here, I will open them there. When I take my last breath here, I will take my first breath there. I will step from death into life and from time into eternity.
So will you if Jesus is your Lord.
My mother “died” of cancer in 2008. Some might say, “She lost her battle with cancer.” Actually, the cancer died and she is more alive today than she was then.
We often say that someone “passed away.” Actually, the world passes away. And we are with our Father and with “a great multitude that no one could number” forever (Revelation 7:9).
All of this is illustrated by King Charles III’s ascension to the throne last Thursday. In the moment of his mother’s death, he became king. Nothing changed externally—he had the same appearance, with the same height and weight and the same personal characteristics that were his the day before. But in that moment, his status changed. Though he is yet uncrowned, he will be known forever as the king he was born to be.
In precisely the same way, the moment you trusted Christ as Lord you were born again into his royal family (1 Peter 2:9). You can now serve him faithfully and fearlessly, knowing that the worst that can happen to you leads to the best that can happen to you. You can use your momentary days for eternal significance and live for God’s glory rather than your own, secure in the knowledge that you will share his glory when you worship at his throne.
You are uncrowned royalty today, but if you are faithful to your King, you will receive one day “the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Isaac Watts (1674–1748) testified:
I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.
What “shall employ” your “nobler powers” today?
Instead of Becoming a Pastor, I Minister as a Plumber
by Nathaniel Marshall
Ten years ago, I found myself at a vocational fork in the road.
I had spent years praying and dreaming about pastoring a church—studying theology, writing sermons, visiting hospitals, and interceding with folks toward this goal.
But like many millennials, I was tight on cash. With a growing family, I had to think frankly about the feasibility of seminary, how little money I’d make as a pastor, and how very little progress I felt I’d made in the Christian life. How was I to lead others down a path I had yet to travel?
A pastor at the church I was attending, knowing I was looking for a job, suggested I connect with one of the congregants who owned a plumbing company.
With the possibility of a job that didn’t require an advanced degree and could immediately provide security for my family, I chose to pursue plumbing with a prayer: God, make me the kind of person who can one day be a pastor in your church.
A decade later, I’m still plumbing. It turns out that work, manual labor in particular, had been sitting right under my nose as perhaps the most direct route to learning the skills needed by those who desire to lead the church. I suspect I’m not alone. Any of us can become better at following Jesus by focusing on the demands and spiritual realities of our work. Rightly understood, work is the training ground where good Christians are made.
How does work make us better Christians? How can we “redeem the time” we spend laboring?
If the Christian life can be summed up as being made “partakers of the divine nature” in and through Christ (2 Pet. 1:4, ESV), then I think it could also be said that the core activity of the Christian is prayer.
As defined by one 19th-century Church of England priest, prayer is “the soul’s approach to God,” and the soul that approaches God takes on the characteristics of God. It’s similar to a copper pipe—cool to the touch and reflective of external light and eventually taking on the characteristics of the flame as it is made ready for the solder.
In his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16–18).
When do we pray? Always. At what frequency? Constantly. Even when turning wrenches? In all circumstances.
Basil the Great, a fourth-century bishop and one of the famed Cappadocian Fathers, helped reform the monastic communities in his area of the ancient world and wrote a template for an ascetic life—a disciplined life lived with God, a life of prayer—that was meant for all Christians.
For Basil, the beginning, middle, and end of the Christian life is love—love for God and love for neighbor, as Jesus taught his followers. Christ also taught that service lovingly rendered to our neighbor is service he accepts as to himself.
“He who loves the Lord loves his neighbor in consequence,” Basil explains in his Long Rules. “‘If anyone love me,’ said the Lord, ‘he will keep my commandments’; and again, He says: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ On the other hand, he who loves his neighbor fulfills the love he owes to God, for He accepts this favor as shown to Himself.”
Doing one’s work for the sake of one’s neighbor is arguably itself a form of prayer, both because Christ is near in our neighbor receiving the service, and because of the disposition of our hearts to please God in our service.
Basil later says that "in the midst of our work can we fulfill the duty of prayer, giving thanks to Him who has granted strength to our hands for performing our tasks and cleverness to our minds for acquiring knowledge … praying that the work of our hands may be directed toward its goal, the good pleasure of God."
Why manual labor in particular? Another famous monk from a couple hundred years later will help us: Benedict of Nursia. Often called the father of Western monasticism, and a student of Basil, Benedict coined the phrase Ora et labora, “Pray and work,” and instructed his monks to abide by a gently alternating schedule of manual labor punctuated by times of prayer.
For Benedict, manual labor was of the utmost importance, which we can gather by the fact that it was the only thing in all of his Rules that he explicitly calls “monastic.” If the monks couldn’t work well, then they wouldn’t pray well. For the monk, as for all Christians, prayer is the work, slackness in one kind of labor meant slackness in other kinds of labor too.
But at a deeper level, manual labor and prayer share something else in common: the recruitment of one’s entire being.
When I’m installing a water heater, I must gather my will, my intellect, my body, all of my faculties—every facet of my being is involved in the execution and completion of the work. Manual labor serves as an occasion of reintegrating what are otherwise disintegrated parts of me, scattered hither and yon.
What I practice in manual labor, then, pulling the various parts of myself into an integrated whole, I apply to my times of prayer, showing up mind, body, soul, and strength to be with and offer praises to God. Here is another answer to the question Paul’s teaching raises, with so many more answers left to discover.
Over the past decade as a blue-collar worker, I have accidentally found a way of life that, far from keeping prayer at bay and hindering me from being with God because of my duties, has put me in the middle of a centuries-long, devout experiment that teaches me at least these two things: In Christ, I am praying precisely because I am working, and I am becoming better at being a pray-er because I am a worker.
My hands participate in the work of bringing order to the world around me, and they thumb through theological works; they bring peace between homeowners and their homes, and they build the kingdom; they’ve learned to turn wrenches, and they’re learning to pray without ceasing.
I’ve discovered that practicing being in God’s presence and growing in the Christian life is something any of us can do in virtually any line of work, not just as pastors or church leaders. My plumbing vocation certainly isn’t the life I expected, but it’s turning out to be the life for which I prayed.