DENZEL WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE TO WILL SMITH’S SLAP

Denzel Washington’s instant reaction to Will Smith’s Slap Is a convicting reminder to us all: ‘The Only Solution Was Prayer’

The actor knew the importance of turning to the Lord in the heat of the moment. Rather than join in panic, ignore the problem or take another worldly approach, Washington decided to act upon our Ephesians 6:18 mandate.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”

Like the others around him, he could have remained seated in shock and awe. He could have whispered and wondered while disengaging from what was happening around him.

But Washington took a different route and decided to pray alongside Smith.

In reality, it was a simple act of obedience. But, in practice, Washington’s immediate, level-headed, and God-focused response to the crisis now poses a convicting reminder to us all.

As he explained: “The vast majority of us will never behave in a manner that garners international rebuke nor will we be witness to one, yet we all face trials, tribulations, and problems in our everyday lives. And when we do, what’s our first response?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s often much easier to rage, judge, yell, ignore, or flee. Yet we’re called to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” We’re called to seek the Lord not only when we face these situations but when others, too, are in the midst of turmoil.”

PRAYING AND MEDITATING ON SCRIPTURE WILL IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH

Gone are the days when gun-shy theologians bowed to the god of science. Reliable scientists are now affirming how ingenious God is and how His principles hold up under the piercing light of scientific scrutiny.

Dr. Andrew Newberg is a neuroscientist who studies the relationship between brain function and various mental states

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, MD, who studies the relationship between spiritual phenomena and the brain, has demonstrated that we were designed physically and mentally to interact with God through prayer and Scripture. It’s a known fact that there are centres in the human brain that respond positively to prayer, reading and meditating on God’s Word, group worship, hymn singing, and empathy for other people. And Dr Newberg believes that practising a personal religious faith is the most powerful way to maintain a healthy brain.

The brain’s frontal lobe is used in focusing attention, rational thinking, and decision-making. It responds to prayer and meditation by helping to reduce stress, strengthen our immune system, enhance memory, and increase our capacity for compassion. It helps us ward off age-related brain deterioration and live longer! Newberg’s research indicates that praying for at least twelve minutes a day slows age-related brain decline. Prayer and reading Scripture also deactivates areas in the brain associated with anger, guilt, anxiety, depression, fear, resentment, and pessimism. It seems that finally, twenty-first-century science has joined ancient Scripture in echoing what the psalmist said: “Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous.’”

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.Psalms 139:13-14

Can you think of a better reason to ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly’?

And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

Source:Vision Christian Media

GOD USES CATASTROPHES FOR HIS PURPOSES

Just as Covid has caused massive disruption to the world now we have Russia invading Ukraine which has caused an enormous refugee crisis. Just as we see in the Book of Acts, catastrophes are opportunities for the church to innovate and to step in and help.

In Acts 8, a massive disruption upset the Christian world. Led by Saul of Tarsus, massive persecution drove Christians from their home base of Jerusalem. Up to that time the new Christian movement was centered in Jerusalem and was confined to Jews. By the end of the book of Acts, the church was more Gentile than Jewish and the church at Jerusalem was a side note. What made the difference? During the disruption, one church used it as an opportunity to innovate, and innovation changes the world.

Churches in countries neighboring Ukraine have opened their doors to shelter and aid refugees as the United Nations refugee agency estimated Thursday that 1 million people have fled the Eastern European nation since the beginning of Russia’s invasion last week. 

“In just seven days, 1 million people have fled Ukraine, uprooted by this senseless war,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”

Many of the displaced have fled to neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary, while many more remain in Ukraine. 

Churches in neighboring countries are among community centers and camps sheltering refugees who’ve fled from the violence, with some seeing hundreds of Ukrainians coming and going in recent days. 

Refugees from Ukraine are pictured after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Korczowa on March 02, 2022. – The number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine has surged to nearly 875,000, UN figures showed on March 2, as fighting intensified on day seven of Russia’s invasion

As Poland has taken the brunt of the Ukrainian refugees, one church that has served as many as 400 refugees is a Baptist church in Chelm. According to the Baptist Federation of Europe, the church is “filled with life” as it has pushed its pews out of the way to make room for beds. 

“It is not tension that you feel as you enter the building but life, peace, and joy,” a statement from the federation reads. “Children laugh and play while mothers prepare for onward journeys. The church piano plays a variety of tunes, none of the hymns, as the children practice their piano lessons.”

“Pews are in the pulpit and beds fill the sanctuary, the balcony, and every available space,” the statement adds. “Ukrainian and Polish families work side by side, making food, receiving donations, and cleaning the toilets. The laundry vibrates as the three new washing machines continue their endless 24-hour cycle. The supply rooms are full of children excitedly selecting new clothes and discovering new toys that have been donated.”

The church’s kitchen has supplied soup, snacks, and hot meals for the refugees arriving while packing lunches for the refugees that depart. The church receives help from local hotels that provide clean linen for the beds. 

The Polish Baptist Union hopes to house as many as 1,000 refugees. Polish Baptists have established 40 shelter camps. The PBU provides the camps with bedding items, food, and hygiene items, while Send Relief, IMB’s relief arm, provides funds to assist in the relief efforts. 

First Baptist Church of Gdasnk, Poland, will host one of the refugee centers, according to IMB missionary Ken Brownd. “It’s just cool to see Polish Baptists stepping up and taking care of their neighbors. They’ve done that for a long time now, but this is a different level,” Brownd was quoted as saying in an IMB report “Our team is trying to organize the Send Relief help … but really, this is mostly driven by Polish Baptists, so we’re not the main players in this at all. We’re helpers, and so it’s amazing.”

If nothing else Christians all around the world need to be in prayer and look for ways to financially support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the surrounding nations that are reaching out to help the refugees.

PROPHESIED END TIMES CATASTROPHES

As chaos reigns in Ukraine, Christians and Jews around the world are turning to God in prayer. History demonstrates God uses catastrophes for His purposes.

Faithwire has reported prayer gatherings between Christians and Jews, of Ukrainians coming together in public squares to seek God’s guidance, and of religious and political leaders invoking the sovereignty of God. Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, the chief rabbi of Kyiv, reportedly invited Christian leaders to join the Jewish community in praying Psalm 31, a hymn of protection, over the evolving situation in Ukraine, according to Eternity News.

Others, still, are calling for a day dedicated to prayer for a nation under assault by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Pro-Ukraine demonstrators carry signs and Ukrainian flags near Russia’s UN Mission, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in New York. World leaders Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “barbaric” and moved to slap unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow and those close to President Vladimir Putin.

“In these days of uncertainty and fear, we pray that each of us might again turn to the Lord and receive God’s gift of peace, work for God’s justice, know God’s reconciliation and love, and choose paths, not of hatred or destruction, of violence or retribution, but God’s way of justice, mercy, and peace,” Archbishop of Canterbury, Just Welby wrote in a pastoral letter published Thursday.

CBN News senior international correspondent George Thomas echoed the archbishop’s words, urging Christians to come together to pray for Ukraine this Sunday, Feb. 27. “Will you join them?” Thomas asked from the balcony of his hotel room in Lviv, Ukraine. “And will you join us, the entire world, in this prayer?”

All over the world Christian leaders and politicians are calling for prayer. Sadly, it required a catastrophe of this dimension to get Christians to unite in prayer.

KNOWING GOD’S WILL

Some things are crystal clear

When it comes to knowing God’s will, His Word makes many things clear. For example, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love others as we love ourselves. We are to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. 

We are to worship God and be holy and set apart for His glory. We are to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to do good deeds, witness to others, and make disciples. 

However, there are many circumstances in life in which the Bible does not give specific instruction. For instance, the Bible doesn’t say who to marry or where to work. When there is no instruction regarding God’s will on a specific topic, the Bible provides principles that will always lead you in the right direction.

If you’re not in the Word, the Word won’t be in you

God directs us to make “wise” decisions that correspond with His Word. Disobedience leads to disappointment. Before making an important decision, ask, “Is God truly guiding me?” If you’re not sure, then wait. And always remember: If you’re not in the Word, the Word won’t be in you, and your spiritual vision will be very cloudy.

Three keys: Pray, stay, obey 

One of the best ways to know if God is truly guiding you is to pray, stay, and obey — pray for direction, stay in His Word, and obey His principles. J.I. Packer has said, “God is more likely to direct me through wise teaching than through inner voices.” Packer isn’t discounting the work of the Holy Spirit, but he is cautioning against “inner voice”

Satan, the world, and our flesh all work against us. God’s leading calms your heart, but the flesh wants to rush. God leads, but Satan pushes. God calms, but the flesh obsesses. God encourages, the world discourages. God reassures, but the world frightens. God enlightens, Satan confuses. God convicts, Satan condemns.

The need to pray, stay, and obey is absolutely vital when it comes to knowing God’s will — partial obedience is the same as disobedience. Obeying the Word leads us in the right direction. Truth conquers deception and exposes sin; it prevents danger instead of leading us into danger.

Hearing but not doing

Often, we follow the wrong voice because we live in deception. We hear but do not do. 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Worshiping God and applying the Word saturates our spiritual lives just like a slowly dripping water source renews a dying bush. A plant that was once dead, barren, and unfruitful can once again be alive, active, and fruitful as the result of being watered. You too can hear God’s voice and regain lost ground by allowing the Word of God to saturate your heart and mind. 

Satan’s ultimate plan is to distance us from God, and “to kill, steal, and destroy”

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The NKJV Study Bible offers these five points regarding how the enemy plants thoughts in our minds: 

1. Doubt: Makes you question God and His goodness. 
2. Discouragement: Makes you look at your problems rather than God. 
3. Diversion: Makes the wrong things seem attractive so that we want them more than the right things. 
4. Defeat: Makes you feel like a failure so that you don’t even try. 
5. Delay: Makes you put off doing something God wants you to do so that it never gets done.

The slippery slope of sin 

As noted earlier, sin is deceptive — it blinds our spiritual eyes and leads us away from God. It deceives us into a false sense of security while justifying poor choices. Sin excuses wrong behavior and prevents us from fulfilling the will of God, but obedience redirects us and brings clarity and joy to our lives.

Imagine how encouraging it will be when you saturate your mind with God’s Word on a daily basis and remove many of the distractions and discouragements of life. Begin today.

Hearing a familiar voice 

If you’re searching for God, I encourage you to look to the One who has the answers and surrender your life to Him. No matter what you have done or have experienced you can turn to Christ and get on the right track:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be savedRomans 10:9

Once you know the Good Shepherd, then you will hear His voice and know His will. Jesus said,

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27

One famous quote captures it well: “A true measure of a person is not who they were, but who they will become.” It’s all about Who you know!

 adapted from Christian Post article Feb. 20th, 2022 “How to hear God’s voice to know His will” by Pastor Shane Idleman

MAKING AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST

Making disciples is the most important job of any church, and there’s no better tool available than the Bible. Also, the best church model for making disciples is the House or Home Church where one on one exploration of God’s Word is possible and accountability is maintained. The disciple’s job is to help their student:

  • Know Jesus Christ better
  • Connect with and grow in biblical community
  • Apply God’s Word in their daily lives

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.2 Corinthians 5:20

Having discovered from this one verse that we are ambassadors for Christ we then need to be held accountable for what we do with that truth this coming week. This is what discipleship is all about and can best be done in small groups.

Note what Paul says here about how we need to pray for the ambassadors for Christ.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.Ephesians 6:18-20

We are in the last days Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) the tribulation that Christians experience during this time Jesus said will be like “birth pains”, the tribulation will increase in intensity to become great tribulation hence we need to pray for all the Saints and particularly ourselves that we will be courageous and stay the course continuing to proclaim the gospel as Paul did even though in chains.

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Matthew 24:21-22

GOD’S GRACE CAN REACH ANY HEART

This story from Voice of the Martyrs is just one of many demonstrating the truth of these words.

It is the story of Sergei Bessarab who was shot to death in a small city called Isfara, where he had planted a church.

Sergei Bessarab became a Christian in prison as a result of another man also named Sergei who had prayed for Bessarab’s salvation. The two men had met in prison while Bessarab was serving time for his criminal activities.

In prison, Sergei prayed every day that Bessarab would come to Christ. But Bessarab was less than grateful for his friend’s concern. “Don’t waste time praying for me,” Bessarab told him.

Sergei remained steadfast in prayer, however, and Bessarab did eventually bend his knee to Christ. This should be a lesson for all of us. Keep praying, particularly for family members and loved ones. The former criminal became a bold witness for his Saviour both inside the prison walls and, after his release, as a pastor on the outside. In addition, he made frequent return visits to the prison to share the gospel with inmates.

Soon after, Bessarab and his wife Tamara moved to Isfara and planted a church, which began to grow as Muslims turned to Christ, a headline in the local paper asked the pointed question, “What’s Going to Be Done About Sergei Bessarab?”

Picture of a man playing the guitar
Sergei Bessasab strumming his gutar in worship

On Jan. 20, 2004, the son of a local mosque leader answered the question, shooting and killing Bessarab as he strummed his guitar during his nightly time of worship, Scripture reading, and prayer.

When the young man who killed Bessarab was convicted and sent to prison, Christians were waiting there to meet him. In God’s amazing providence, the killer was eventually assigned to a cell with a Christian prisoner who had been led to Christ and discipled by Bessarab!

And over time, the mosque leader’s son became Bessarab’s spiritual grandson, placing his trust in Christ.

Think about it, Bessarab was once a convicted criminal. Many would have written him off spiritually. His killer, a Muslim was also far from God, and some may have written him off as well. But God’s grace can reach any heart.

Picture the final chapter of this story: Pastor Sergei Bessarab stands worshiping before God’s throne with the man who ended his life on earth and perhaps the two may be working together on this earth again during Jesus’ soon coming Millennial Kingdom.

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.Revelation 20:6

POWERLESS PRAYER

‘‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14-15

The clearly expected outcome –the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.’ In verses 17-18, James continues to assert the miraculous power of prayers, offered in faith:

‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’ James 5:17-18

Clearly, James believed that prayers offered in faith would result in the physical, miraculous intervention of God. When we look at the life of Jesus, and the amount of time and energy he devoted to healing the sick, which was an expression of his deep compassion for the suffering, it is easy to see that James was closer to the truth than most Christians are today.

Jesus relied on miracles to confirm his words, moreover, He told us that those that believe in Him will do even greater works than He did. Do we really believe Him?

I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.John 14:12-14

Powerless prayers have been rendered as such by the long, slow erosion of faith among God’s people, and that erosion has been made possible by the embracing of false traditions. For example, the kind of prayers that close with ‘not my will but yours, be done’. This is not stated in faith, in expectation of an outcome, but more as a catch-all – ‘please ignore everything I just asked for, if it doesn’t suit you.’

This is not the model of discipleship we are to follow and teach, where we are completely unaware of the will of God, and our prayers are at best guesswork. Paul urges us to walk ever more closely with God, and increasingly understand his will.

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12:1-2

As we yield to God’s mercy and walk closely with him, our ideas are changed. We jettison old ways of thinking, as healthier, more life-giving inspiration arises in His company, and as our minds are renewed, we become more attuned to Him and to His will. Only then, in our closeness with God, where His good, pleasing and perfect will is known, can we pray effectively.

In the early church, the lived experience of the Christian faith was far greater than it is today. There is much we have lost and must seek to restore. Back to the church as God intended as revealed in the Book of Acts.

Praying effectively: James sums it up well:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.’ James 1:6-8

 Adapted from the excellent article "The Prayer God Can’t Answer" by Duncan Edward Pile Patheos Nov. 23rd 2021

AMAZING PRAYER AND ADMISSION BY JORDAN PETERSON

“God lift me from the intolerable burden of my ignorance, arrogance, willful blindness, bitterness, and resentment. And I pray that others rise above the same faults and temptations.

I watched Fox News release this message: There are terrible things afoot under the surface of our society, and the perpetrators are coming for you and coming for us. And then I watched the Democrats respond in panic and anger, saying: There are terrible things afoot under the surface of our society, and the perpetrators are coming for you and coming for us.

Are there terrible things afoot, bubbling under the surface? Is something coming for you? And for us? Ask yourself how true that is of yourself and your own life. Have you addressed all that? Are you concerning yourself with the dust in your enemy’s eyes, instead of attending to the filth that obscures your own sight? Do we want accusation, suspicion, discord, derision, and hatred? Or the peace and prosperity and happiness that beckons to us at this moment like never before? Who’s the enemy here? Is it the basket of deplorables? Is it the freaks and the queers? Is it the plumbers and carpenters and tradesmen and managers who work honestly and diligently during the day and the soldiers who stalwartly defend the borders and protect us? Is it the artists and visionaries whose expressions of unbridled creativity entertain and rejuvenate us and who continually offer to us an unending panoply of technological miracle? Is it the institutions that guide and protect us that so many lived and died to erect and establish which for all their faults have served us so well?

Do we want revenge or justice? Do we want contempt or mercy? Do we want war—or peace? And what are you aiming at in your heart of hearts? I see even the best of men degenerating into the exchange of blows. I see even the best of men identifying the enemy in our neighbours and friends. I see even the best of men falling prey to cowardice and self-righteous anger. It needs to stop. I need to stop. You need to stop. Before it’s too late. Who is the enemy here? The snake in your heart? The lies on your tongue? The arrogance of your intellect? The cowardice of our refusal to see? The enemy is that which divides to sow discord. The enemy is the pride and fear that stops us from lending a hand across the divide. The enemy is the great and eternal adversary of mankind. And if we demonize our brothers, our comrades-in-arms, do we not precisely call that dread spirit forth? Have we not yet learned? courage, trust, truth, love, even unto your enemy. Which is you? God forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. May what is the highest guide our vision. May what is highest open our ears. May what is the highest guide our tongues. And may we pray fearful of the hell we could so easily and carelessly create. Deliver us from evil. Shine a light into the corners of our dark hearts. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever, Amen.

ONE-THIRD OF AUSTRALIANS THINK MORE ABOUT GOD AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC

God uses catastrophes for His purposes. Since the Covid -19 pandemic started, Australians are experiencing a renewed spiritual awakening with three in ten praying more often now. Moreover, Prayer Groups are more active and growing.

Australian Prayer Network
Building prayer across the nation

A new report (McCrindle Research) has revealed that the experience of COVID-19 has caused many Australians to experience a renewed spiritual search. A third of Australians have thought more about God, while 28% have prayed more. During the pandemic, almost half of Australians have thought more about the meaning of life (47%) or their own mortality (47%). The collective experience of the pandemic has ushered in a return to a focus on the local community, with half of Australians (53%) valuing a strong local community more than they did three years ago. The local church is a key element of the local community with three in four Australians (76%) agreeing the churches in their local area are making a positive difference to their community.

The research, which was conducted by McCrindle Research and surveyed 1,000 Australians also found that two-thirds of Australians are likely to attend a church service either online (64%) or in-person (67%) if personally invited by a friend or family member. Far from religion and spirituality being only for older Australians, Gen Z (45%) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers (21%) to be extremely or very likely to attend an online church service if personally invited by a friend or family member. Mark McCrindle, Founder and Principal of McCrindle Research says, “This data is worth reflecting on a little longer: in this seemingly secular era, where the church is perceived by many commentators to be on the decline and culturally outdated, almost half of all young adults invited to a church service by a friend or family member would very likely attend.”

The report also found that Australians are accepting of others’ religious views. Nine in ten (90%) agree that in Australia people should have the freedom to share their religious beliefs if done in a peaceful way, even if those beliefs are different from mainstream community views. There is, however, wavering support for religious symbolism in public life. Almost two in five Australians (39%) agree that Christian practices in public life such as parliament opening in prayer, oaths in court being taken on the Bible, or Christian chaplains in hospitals or jails should be stopped. Three in five (61%), however, disagree and are therefore open to Christian practices in public life continuing.

Interestingly, religious discrimination is a genuine issue in Australia with almost three in ten Australians (29%) having experienced religious discrimination, this equates to about half of those who identify with a religion which is six in ten Australians. Australians who identify with a non-Christian religion are more likely to have experienced discrimination (54%) than Protestants (27%) or Catholics (32%). Religious discrimination is also more likely to be experienced by younger Australians who are four times as likely as their older counterparts to say they have experienced religious discrimination (51% Gen Z cf. 13% Baby Boomers).

Source: McCrindle Research