This is the ninety-third lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
See Mel Lawrenz’s book, How to Understand the Bible.
Years ago I remember when we got a new car and my wife and I agreed it would be “set apart” for my travels and my work. Our kids were teenagers at the time and both were new drivers, so our vehicles were very heavily used, with plenty of dents and dings that mysteriously appeared, and lots of fast food wrappers that also mysteriously appeared. So the plan was that Dad’s car would be “set apart” for a different use than hauling bags of manure from the garden store. The “set-apartness” was simply a declaration (and, to help the cause, not giving anybody else a key to the car).
By Melanie Shankle
Here’s the thing about me—and I tell you this because you’re my friend and I’m comfortable with this personal character assassination of myself. I say a lot of dumb stuff. I’d like to pretend that my impulse to lie to a cashier at Target® about what kind of dogs I own is a one-off kind of thing, but that’s not really the truth. And it’s not that I go around lying all the time as much as my mouth just gets ahead of my brain, and sometimes this leads to saying things I don’t mean. I tend to talk at a speed that would be defined by Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose as “rapid velocity.” I’m often in need of a filter because my go-to is almost always to be funny, and sometimes funny and kind don’t line up. Not to mention that I have a tendency to use a sarcastic remark to cut the emotional tension in a room, and that can come off as less than empathetic. It’s not that I don’t feel what someone else is feeling as much as I just want to figure out how to bring the mood up a notch.
According to a Gallup poll, 72% of Americans believe the state of moral values in the USA is getting worse. In a world of social media snapshots and sound bites, unseen personal character seems to take a back seat to glamorized material success, no matter what it takes to achieve it.
Bible Gateway interviewed James Merritt (@drjamesmerritt) about his book, Character Still Counts: It Is Time to Restore Our Lasting Values (Harvest House Publishers, 2020).
[Browse resources by James Merritt in the Bible Gateway Store]
Why do you believe a character deficit exists today?
James Merritt: Both by research and experience, there’s no question that there’s a character deficit today from the coarseness of public conduct to the incivility and personal interaction. Surveys show and people know that there’s certainly a dearth of character today that’s seen everywhere from the school house to the White House. Just as I’m answering these questions, for the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, two managers and a general manager have been fired because of stealing signs electronically in a recent World Series. It seems as if today, people are less trusting of each other, contracts are consistently broken, and dishonesty seems to be at an all-time high.
The following is a Bible Gateway exclusive Sneak Peek and First Listen of It’s Not Over: Leaving Behind Disappointment and Learning to Dream Again (Thomas Nelson, 2020) by Joshua Gagnon (@joshgagnon). Order the book and unabridged audiobook on CD in the Bible Gateway Store.
By Joshua Gagnon
While God-sized dreams often begin with our response to a specific need, there are lots of needs in our world. Actually, there are lots of needs in each of our communities. So we need more input when it comes to identifying which needs (and which dreams) God is using to direct our steps.
I like the way Nehemiah responded after his heart was broken by the Jerusalem report: “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (1:4). Notice that Nehemiah didn’t rush into action. Instead, he stopped and sought direction from God through prayer and fasting.
By Robert Morgan
I now make it my earnest prayer that God . . . would most
graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love
mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility
and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics
of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion (Jesus Christ),
and without a humble imitation of whose example in these
things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.
—George Washington, in his letter to the governors of the thirteen new United States, June 8, 1783
[Select from a variety of free email devotionals for your inbox inspiration from Bible Gateway]
In his book Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers (Oxford University Press, 2017), Daniel L. Dreisbach observes that the leaders of the American Revolution repeatedly referred to Micah 6:8. “The literature of the founding era has numerous references and allusions to this biblical text,” he wrote. John Winthrop referred to this passage in his “City on the Hill” sermon. John Adams quoted it frequently. George Washington alluded to it in his farewell letter when resigning as commander in chief of the Continental Army.
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Chinese Officials Hunt for Bibles Not Approved by the Communist Party
⇨ Bitter Winter
⇨ Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Violence Against Christians Surges; More Than 1,000% Increase in Attacks on Churches Since 2018
Bibles, Phones and Other Things You Won’t Find in Hotel Rooms 10 Years From Now
⇨ The Telegraph
Do you ever wonder, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” Do you wish you could see the evidence that prayer changes lives? Are you tired of playing it safe with your faith? Does prayer really move the heart of God? What does it mean to pray boldly and powerfully? What are dangerous prayers?
In this Q&A, Craig Groeschel (@craiggroeschel) talks about his book, Dangerous Prayers: Because Following Jesus Was Never Meant to Be Safe (Zondervan, 2020).
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, So You Want to Be Useful to God…]
Explain your book’s message.
Craig Groeschel: I’m incredibly passionate about this book because it’s really a reflection of the personal struggles I’ve had with my prayer life. I think there are many Christians who know they should pray, who want to have great faith when they pray, but often don’t. We get easily distracted or we end up praying really safe, boring prayers, like, “God, bless my food and keep me safe today.” You almost wonder if God sits in heaven going, “You’re probably going to be okay today, you’re probably going to be safe. And you want me to bless your double cheeseburger and fries? I’ll do the best I can with that or whatever.”
This is the ninety-second lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
See Mel Lawrenz’s book, How to Understand the Bible.
The idea that we need someone else’s help to do what seems to be our responsibility is hard for many people to accept. Living a “clean” life is our responsibility, and we can’t pull it off on our own. Have you ever made a resolution to improve your life in some significant way, and been disappointed to find that your resolve lasted about 30 days (or 30 minutes), and then you were back to your old ways? I’m not talking about something as simple as changing your eating habits or exercise. I’m talking about change of the heart. “I’m going to start being a patient person—right now!” “I’m going to decide not to have this hot anger inside that keeps burning other people.” “I’m going to stop obsessing about the things I want and stop being jealous of others who have more than I do.” I, I, I. It’s like asking a man standing in a barrel how far off the ground he thinks he can lift himself.
By Rebecca Bender
Editor’s Note: For nearly six years, Rebecca Bender was sold across the underground world of sex trafficking in Las Vegas. She was branded, beaten, told when to sleep and what to wear, and traded between traffickers. This article shares the beginning of her restoration and deliverance from slavery and drug addition, adapted from her book In Pursuit of Love.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” — Matthew 21:31
I knew I needed professional help if I wanted to get my life together and my little girl back. Bryan my pimp was furious about the hospital incident due to my drug overdose and kept his distance, spending time with his other girls. Yet somehow he convinced me that it was my drug use that caused all the prostitution, and that he wanted me to go to rehab because he loved me. I called my mom and got a list of women’s rehabs in the Pacific Northwest that she’d compiled for me. Last on the list was Victory Outreach, a Christian women’s home.
“Those Christians don’t have a clue what real life on the streets is like,” I told her as she read the phone numbers to me. I hung up and began calling the numbers on the list.
What if the greatest spiritual battle of our generation is taking place in the space between our ears? Does how we think actually shape how we live? What are toxic thinking patterns and what does the Bible say about them?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jennie Allen (@JennieAllen), author of Get Out of Your Head: The One Thought That Can Shift Our Chaotic Minds (WaterBrook, 2020).
Why do you write, “The greatest spiritual battle of our generation is being fought between our ears”?
Jennie Allen: What we believe and what we think about matters, and the enemy knows it! And he’s determined to get in our heads to distract us from doing good and to sink us so deep that we feel helpless, overwhelmed, shut down, and incapable of rising to make a difference for the kingdom of God. Even if we’re one of those who won’t be shut down and we’re loving God and people as we go, a million toxic thoughts haunt us each step of the way.