Weekly encouraging news and information for Christians in the United States of America.
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American Christian Connection
August 29, 2022

Prison Ministries Try to Break Back in After COVID-19 

Staffing shortages and ongoing pandemic restrictions have kept volunteers out—and left the incarcerated craving the kind of spiritual support they had before.

James Hyson hasn’t had access to ministries, classes, or mentoring groups since before the pandemic. That’s because the ministry staff who volunteer at the New Jersey prison where he is incarcerated haven’t been able to return. Though pandemic restrictions have loosened in most parts of American life, many state prisons and jails still limit outside volunteers. Ministries reported to CT that states have either not lifted their 2020 ban on volunteers, blocked volunteers whenever there is a COVID-19 outbreak, or cut the number of volunteers allowed in.

Evangelist Franklin Graham launching ‘God Loves You’ tour in 6 cities this fall 

Amid growing hostilities toward the Christian faith, evangelist Franklin Graham is planning to travel to six U.S. cities stretching across 1,000 miles to share a message of God’s love and forgiveness with thousands of people as part of his God Loves You Tour this fall. The six-city, five-state God Loves You Tour will begin Sept. 24 and conclude on Oct. 2, comprising one-night evangelism events in Allentown and York in Pennsylvania; Youngstown in Ohio; Flint in Michigan; Waukesha in Wisconsin; and Rochester in Minnesota.

'Keeping Our Focus on Jesus': Little Leaguer, Blind in One Eye, Propels Team in World Series

The family of a Little League baseball player whose story of blindness has captured national headlines says faith and a positive attitude helped their son overcome adversity to become a sports standout. That player, 12-year-old Josiah Porter, hit a grand slam Thursday to propel his Nolensville, Tenn., Little League team to a 7-1 victory over Pearland, Texas, and advance to Saturday’s U.S. Championship game against Hawaii at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.ames Hyson hasn’t had access to ministries, classes, or mentoring groups since before the pandemic.

This Week's Thought

by Brad Campbell

Just a thought to help start your week.

It seems to be that time of year when the animals are running amuck.  Perhaps they sense that the heat of summer may soon ease up, giving way to cooler months.  Whatever it is, there is certainly activity in the air in the animal kingdom.

Just a week or two ago, I and the car just ahead of me had to stop on a local road to allow at least a dozen or fifteen turkeys to make up their mind which direction they wanted to go.  One day this past week, my wife and I experienced the very sudden erratic road-crossing attempts of two separate groups of raccoons.  Unfortunately, I must report that at least one of those pretty creatures in each of the two groups failed to make up their minds in time to avoid tragedy.

And then I’ve seen several deer lately, like the ones in my picture here.  Momma and baby deer were out for an afternoon stroll.  I snapped several photos in which Momma deer was very keenly watching her surroundings, me included, in order to make sure everything was safe for the little one.

The Lord certainly takes care of His creatures.  He provides their meals, shelter, and safety.  But alas, each animal must make up its own mind about the way it will go.  Those turkeys finally gave up the group decision making process, leaving the road in at least two different directions.  Those ‘coons had no idea which way to run, and this indecision inevitably led to death.  Momma deer was ever watchful of all her surroundings, making sure everything was safe.

We are all beloved creatures of the Lord.  But in His goodness and grace, He allows us to make our own decisions.  Some of those are life-changing.  Some of our choices result in splitting from the rest of our group.  Some result in safety and beloved protection.  But, sadly, some of those choices in life can lead to our destruction.  We must always be on guard.

Just as the Psalmist wrote, as a deer pants for the water, so I long for the Lord’s presence.  May we, as His little creatures this week, pay very close attention to the paths we travel, the obstacles and dangers that will most often come our way, and the reality that He longs for us to look to Him for guidance and protection when we have no idea which way to go.  May we be faithful to follow in His paths this week.

Just a thought.

The Necessity of Living a Surrendered Life

by Jim Denison

A driver and monitor on a school bus in Dallas, Texas, helped save two children who were caught up and nearly swept away in the recent flooding in our area. The driver said later, “It had to be God to send me that way because I don’t normally go that way.” 

As our schools open across the country, so does concern for our schools and students. After gun violence in schools tripled over the previous year, wearable panic buttons are being mandated or encouraged by multiple states across the country. Bulletproof backpack sales are on the rise as well.

School violence is not the only risk to our youth: self-harm claims among US teenagers increased by 99 percent during the pandemic, claims related to overdoses jumped 119 percent, and claim reports for anxiety and major depressive disorders rose 94 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, a record 58 percent of Americans say our best days are behind us and three-quarters of voters say the country is heading in the wrong direction. United States Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky claimed, “Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.”

And yet, as theologian Teilhard de Chardin observed, “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.”

How can you and I offer hope most effectively?


Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks writes in the Atlantic that changing people’s minds is extremely difficult, especially through argumentation that attacks the beliefs of others.

He notes: “When people fail to live up to your moral values (or your expression of them), it is easy to conclude that they are immoral people. Further, if you are deeply attached to your values, this difference can feel like a threat to your identity, leading you to lash out, which won’t convince anyone who disagrees with you” (his emphasis). 

By contrast, Brooks observes, “Effective missionaries present their beliefs as a gift. And sharing a gift is a joyful act, even if not everyone wants it.” He encourages us to follow their example by offering our values “with love, not insults and hatred.”

To this end, we should “go out of your way to welcome those who disagree with you as valued voices worthy of respect and attention.” We should refuse to take rejection personally. And we need to listen empathetically: research shows that “listening and asking sensitive questions almost always has a more beneficial effect than talking.”


Early Christians believed that the “gospel” (literally “good news”) was so valuable that many sacrificed their lives to share this gift with others. And their transformed lives were evidence that this gift works. What changed them could change others and, through them, the world.

The psalmist declared, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16). The man born blind told the religious authorities, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). Paul never tired of telling the story of God’s transforming grace in the heart of the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV).

However, Satan knows the power of a changed life as well.

That’s why he is working to turn the culture not only against Christian beliefs but against Christians themselves. For the first time in American history, those who affirm biblical sexual morality are being branded as homophobic, discriminatory, and dangerous. Pro-life advocates are being castigated as part of a “war on women.” 

Tragically, we cooperate with Satan’s strategy when our clergy abuse children and congregants, our churches and denominations go to war with each other over theology and buildings, and some of our leaders embrace unbiblical immorality while criticizing those who uphold biblical truth.


The key to living a transformed life that draws others to Christ is practicing the presence of the transforming Christ. Jesus was clear on this: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, my emphasis).

From our Lord’s statement we learn this fact: We experience God to the degree that we are surrendered to him. This is how all relationships work: a gift must be opened to be useful; a doctor must be trusted to be helpful.

When I served as a college missionary on the island of Borneo, our guide took us one day through deep jungles to a remote village. He could lead us only when we followed his path and not our own.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “We never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we abandon in every particular.” Paradoxically, many of us have surrendered just enough of our lives to Christ to miss both what the world offers and what God offers. Thus we forfeit the joy of the Lord that would draw the world to the Lord.

However, Chambers assured us, “As soon as we do abandon, the Holy Ghost gives us an intimation of the joy of Jesus.” The results will be visible to others: a life fully surrendered to Jesus is “unutterably humble, unsulliedly pure, and absolutely devoted to God.” 


It is not easy to live a surrendered life. This is a death to self, but a death that leads to abundant life we can find in no other way (John 10:10). As Dante noted in The Divine Comedy, “In his will is our peace.”

World champion weightlifter Jerzy Gregorek observed: “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”

My dear friend and fellow minister Dr. Ron Scates puts it this way: “When Christianity is hard, it is easy. When Christianity is easy, it is hard.”

Which will be true for you today?

How Should Christians Respond to Protests?

by Dr. Robert "Bob" Peterson

Those of us in the older generations know that protests are nothing new to our country. The last couple of years, however, have been so wrought with tension and dissension that our nation is more polarized than ever, and protests have been occurring with even greater frequency. 

Among them were the violent protests across the country following the killing of George Floyd, and then at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. In February, we saw protests on behalf of the Canadian truckers who opposed vaccine mandates. And ever since the leak of the Supreme Court draft, following the eventual final ruling overturning Roe v Wade, pro-abortion protestors have been out en masse all over the country.

As a mature believer who strives to set a good example for others to follow, I must pause and consider, “What does God have to say about this?”

The younger generations are watching us. It's our job to set the tone and demonstrate a Christ-like response to the emotionally charged protests of this day. We can’t condemn Antifa and BLM protesters for their destructive behavior, yet support Canadian protesters for theirs, which was not as violent, but still had a damaging impact on the economy. We can’t condone pro-life activists waylaying abortion-minded women outside clinics and in the same breath complain about pro-abortion protestors gathering outside the Supreme Court.

The Bible offers guidance for how we should react to the divisive issues of today. The following biblical principles can also support meaningful conversations with young people in our spheres of influence.


In Romans 12:19, Paul warns, “Do not take revenge my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath; for it is written, ‘For it is mine to avenge. I will repay evil for evil.’” Protests, riots and mob action never leave room for God to act on our behalf. Instead, they bring God’s judgment on ourselves for our own lawlessness. 


It is often easier to hide in the crowd of protestors and surround yourself with others who will shield you and determine what you do next. I’m not speaking against legitimate peaceful assembly with thousands of others whose protests you share. Rather, I’m suggesting that there is something more righteous about standing alone against the crowd.

Look, for example, at the Ontario teacher who recently stood up in a school board meeting and spoke out against a transgender-themed book in her elementary school library. Compare that teacher’s respectful, yet assertive stand with the mobs threatening Supreme Court Justices’ lives and families outside their very homes. The difference is astounding.

When Moses returned to Egypt after 40 years, he stood alone before Pharaoh. John the Baptist went alone to confront King Herod for his wickedness. Jesus didn’t invite his disciples to join him in his temple protest. Stephen, the first martyr, stood alone at the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem and protested the bigotry and unbelief of the religious leaders.


As Paul said in Romans 13, God has instituted civil authority for our own good. However, Christians are bound by higher laws. We cannot rob, loot or destroy property that belongs to others. It was a sin for those protesting George Floyd’s death, and it was a sin for those who destroyed property in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus instructed us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Calling people names, carrying signs that mock others in vicious ways, yelling obscenities or physically attacking others is not what God has commanded us to do. It’s why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was so careful to lead peaceful demonstrations. He knew that when we act like the devil, we should not expect to be blessed by the Lord. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 


In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Too often, when it comes to angry protests, we aren’t looking at the whole picture. We’re focused on the thing we disagree with or want to change, without pausing to consider someone else’s pain or perspective. In helping some, we could be harming others.

Most people were appalled when Antifa destroyed buildings, looted stores, shut down businesses and stopped commerce in Seattle and Portland. Some of those same people now cheer for the Canadian truckers as though their protests are more noble or justified. While we might feel empathy for those facing a vaccine mandate that they feel is unjust, we must pause to acknowledge the other side of the coin. The economic ripples of the trucker convoy protests were significant and are still being felt to this day. And where there is no problem with lovingly and gently encouraging a woman to consider adoption instead of abortion, vandalizing abortion clinics and blocking public access is going too far.


Rioting is not a solution to any problem; it only creates more problems. It’s hypocritical to riot about a social problem, only to become a social problem yourself. Violence only serves to breed more violence. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” 

The Bible is clear: riots will not persuade great governments to action. As Christians, we should be careful that we don’t cheer on or adopt the sin that fuels riots or reckless protests. When young people and non-believers see us doing that, we’ve taught them that it’s justified behavior, and worse, we risk losing our credibility with them.

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