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Christianity

10 Reasons Why This Is a Wonderful Time to Be Alive


God has placed us in this generation purposefully, to live life to the full. This is a wonderful time to be alive, despite the challenges surrounding our modern world on a daily basis. From ancient history to today, chaos and conflict have challenged humanity. We were never promised life would be easy (Matthew 7:13-14), but God does ensure His plans for us are greater than anything we could ever ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Only God knows the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). He is trustworthy and good. We can be still and know that He is God, sovereignly sustaining us day by day (Isaiah 46:4).

By adopting a grateful countenance, we can find endless reasons to be glad to be alive during these times.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/LightFieldStudios





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Christianity

10 Cliques That Exist in Every Church


Any community of people is bound to have a problem with cliques, and the church is no exception. But before you get up in arms at the idea of church members screaming “You can’t sit with us!” across the sanctuary (Mean Girls, anyone?!), please know that cliques aren’t all bad.

A clique is merely a group of people who bond over similar interests. I don’t know about you, but I’m all for people making friends; however, where cliques get their notoriously lousy rap is from how difficult it can be for outsiders to get into the group. That is where the problem lies.

But it’s time to say “no more!” to exclusivity.

So, without further ado, here are ten familiar cliques in church and how to break your way into them.

Photo credit: @Thinkstock/Huntstock





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Christianity

On Divorce and Jen Hatmaker


I can only imagine how incredibly difficult the last few years have been for Jen Hatmaker, the well-known Christian author and speaker who has undergone a radical transformation in her theology.

Hatmaker and her husband have built a platform for spreading Christianity by reaching out to the oppressed, the outcasts of society. From serving the homeless for Sunday services to handing out free hugs at LGBTQ parades, every aspect of their lives has been centered on giving love.

Hatmaker made headlines a few years ago when she parted from traditional theologies to embrace same-sex marriage as potentially being “sacred.” Just a few weeks ago, she again made headlines when her daughter “came out” to the public on a podcast.

This week, Jen Hatmaker announced that she and her husband are getting a divorce.

I don’t know where you land on Hatmaker’s theology concerning the LGBTQ community, but here’s one thing I do know: she needs the love and support of her brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t know the reasons behind the Hatmaker’s divorce. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever the reasons, I can assure you that they are both reeling. They have struggled with divorce in light of their faith. They have questioned their ability to be ministers of the gospel. They feel as if the foundation of their lives is gone. Everything in their lives is being questioned, and they are struggling to imagine the future. Their plans to walk together into their golden years with someone who knows everything about them, to sit in their rocking chairs on the porch and reminisce about their decades together…it has all vanished.

In place of their hopes and dreams and plans, they find themselves questioning their faith, the goodness of God, their desire to remain faithful to the One they’ve faithfully served all these years. Their lives have shattered into a million worthless shards. They are left with nothing but a heap of rubble. As they wander aimlessly about, they struggle to know where to start picking up the pieces, how to rebuild their lives.

And such, my friend, is the nature of divorce.

Divorce is a devastating storm that sweeps in suddenly. For those who have a firm foundation on Christ, they will eventually—with much time and energy—find the hope of the gospel, the truth that God resurrects our lives no matter what devastation may sweep in. And that is the hope of a life built upon a firm foundation. That is my prayer for the Hatmakers.

I don’t know where you stand on the Hatmakers theology, but here’s what I do know:

The Hatmakers need our prayers.

I am certain there has been much prayer and work that has been invested in saving the marriage. I don’t know of a devoted Christian that just flippantly throws away his or her marriage. There must be something seriously wrong to bring them to this point. I don’t know if there is a major character flaw that has led to some extensive sin or if it is years of dysfunction that has taken its toll, but I promise the covenant of marriage has not been taken lightly.

As the body of Christ, we are called to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:4). Our theology should never interfere with our love for our brothers and sisters. We should be available to love and support as God gives opportunity.

The Hatmakers don’t need Christian clichés.

And they don’t need prideful modern-day Pharisees pointing out their sins and failures or a theology with which they don’t agree.

“You just need to pray more.”

“You must not have enough faith.”

“What sin did you commit to make your husband (or wife) have an affair?”

“You must not have been an attentive enough spouse.”

Why is it that divorce is the one time we find it acceptable to blame the victim? Why is it that we assume every divorce is the result of two people not working hard enough? Have we not seen enough selfish people to understand that it only takes one person’s hard heart to destroy a marriage? Have we not come far enough to recognize that some people are unable to truly exhibit selfless love?

When Job had everything of value stripped away, he had three friends who traveled from far away to sit with him. For the first seven days, they simply sat in silence, comforting their friend with their presence. Had they stopped there, they would have gone a long way to helping Job start the healing process. However, it was when they opened their mouths that everything fell apart. While Job’s friends said some good things, it was their Christian clichés, their tendency to blame Job for the calamities that struck his life, that pushed Job to his breaking point.

May we never be that kind of friend.

The Hatmakers need a community to support them.

When my husband’s affair was first made public, I went into hiding. It wasn’t until I came out into the public and allowed my church family to embrace me that I began the process of healing.

As a pastor’s wife, it will be especially difficult for Jen. I don’t know the status of her husband’s pastorate, but I know what it is to go from the first lady of a church family to just an invisible face in the congregation. Jen will most likely lose her church family (if her husband remains the pastor). She will lose her position. She will lose many ministry opportunities because of “Christians” who feel she is disqualified because of her divorce.

I know. I’ve been in her shoes.

And yet, the very thing Hatmaker needs right now is a circle of loving Christians to come alongside her, embrace her, walk this journey with her. She needs us, as the body of Christ, to do what God has called us to do: to love those who are downcast and hurting and oppressed as they seek to find healing.

God created us to live in community because it is in community that we find healing and hope.

Jen, I don’t know you. We were only a few years apart as we stood on Bison Hill all those years ago. We both entered into marriage with a fellow OBU classmate, eager and excited to minister for God as a pastor’s family. After years of service to Him and our spouse, we both found our lives wrecked by the pain of divorce. 

But here’s where things are different: I’ve walked this path ahead of you. I’ve seen the joy of wandering in the wilderness, watching God provide for my every need. I’ve seen Him guide my steps, defeat my enemies at every turn. I’ve been led faithfully into the Promised Land, a land of beauty and redemption.

After a decade of wandering, I have found this post-divorce life to be so incredibly beautiful! I have found an intimacy with my Father that I never expected, a joy in watching God restore everything I have lost and more. I revel in the beauty of my broken life.

And I am absolutely certain He will do the same for you. Cling to Him. Let Him purify your heart, your faith, as you embrace this difficult and unwanted journey. Let Him create something far greater than anything you could ever imagine.

I will always be here for you, faithfully lifting you up in prayer, my beautiful sister in Christ. Cling to the Father and watch in amazement as He puts you back together and on your feet for good!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/grinvalds





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5 Ways You Are Teaching Your Kids to Be Entitled


How does a parent raise an entitled child? Especially since no parent intends to? 

Entitlement pervades nearly every aspect of today’s culture, which means Christian families aren’t immune from its influence. In fact, if you aren’t proactive, it’s almost a given you’ll raise an entitled child. It’s a sobering thought. 

Most parents know entitlement develops when a child is given too much, too soon, but many parents don’t realize entitlement is also bred in more subtle ways. More lethal ones.

Could you be accidentally raising an entitled child?  Here are five common parenting mistakes that can lead to entitlement:

1. Allowing Your Kids to Interrupt

I recently attended a meeting at the home of a family with three adorable kids. Halfway through the presentation, one of the children ran into the living room and stood next to the speaker. “Have you seen Frozen? I love it!”, she declared, then launched into a litany of reasons she loved the movie—smack in the middle of the speaker’s presentation. 

Granted, this was an informal meeting, but still, the parents said nothing. The interrupted leader sat visibly uncomfortable, unsure of how to regain control.

This innocent parental mistake holds consequences if not addressed. Kids who don’t learn respect for other people’s time, conversations, or physical space are essentially being taught “the world revolves around you.” When life becomes child-centered, kids become me-centered. Kids who aren’t taught to wait for their turn—whether on the playground, or in the living room—are on the path to becoming entitled. 

Is it important to give our kids undivided attention? Of course!  At appropriate times. We want to raise engaging kids, not entitled kids. 

Does your child interrupt? Try this: First, explain the importance of waiting to speak until others finish. Then develop a “secret signal” your child can use when you’re in the middle of an adult conversation. My kids placed their hand on my arm, then I place my hand on theirs, letting them know I would turn my attention to them soon. It was a win-win solution.

2. Not Making Please and Thank You a Big Deal

Even entitled folks say “please” and “thank you” for the big things in life. But grateful people remember to say these words for the small things, too.

When our kids were young, my husband started a family ritual at dinnertime. At the close of every meal he’d say, “Thanks, Mom, for this great dinner”—even if the meal was take-out. It was a small habit that reaped big rewards. Our kids learned to appreciate the daily things we do for one another. They became grateful people, not entitled people.

Has your family gotten out of the habit of saying please and thank you? Try this: Lead by example. For the next seven days, thank your spouse and/or child for something you might normally take for granted. 

3. Breaking the Rules

This one is perhaps the most common in today’s culture. Rules, many of us figure, are more like guidelines. Sure, we want everyone else to follow them, but us? Our kids? Well, we’ll be the judge. Today’s mantra seems to be “Don’t tell ME what to do.”

Here’s the problem: allowing kids to break rules, whether minor, like running at the pool, or major, like breaking curfew, teaches disrespect for authority. It leads to chaos in a home, in a school, in a society. The issue at stake is much bigger than running at pools, or staying out after curfew, or whatever rule happens to be at issue in the moment. The message we send when we allow our kids to make their own rules is “the world revolves around you; it revolves around us.”  And that message leads to entitlement.

Does this mean we need to parent like tyrants?  Not at all. But we do need to lovingly and consistently teach our kids to follow the rules.

Have you allowed your kids to “bend” the rules? Try this:  The next time you’re faced with any rule, whether big or small, (think “keep off the grass,” “no dogs allowed,” etc.) follow it. Use it as a teaching opportunity.

4. Being Too Quick to Step In

We all know that mom or dad—the one who pitches a fit if their child doesn’t make first string, doesn’t get the A, or doesn’t get the recognition. Of course we want our children to succeed, but the goal is to help our children learn how to succeed based upon their own merits. When children receive recognition based upon parental intervention rather than their own initiative, entitlement results. 

Have you been too quick to step in? Try this: Give your child the gift of working hard to achieve a goal. Resist the temptation to intervene unless absolutely essential. Be okay with a little failure along the way. Failure isn’t fatal if it helps your child develop character. Allow your child to succeed in his or her own time and own way and you’ll raise an empowered child, not an entitled one.

5. Following the Crowd

These days it’s not uncommon for middle school kids to reserve party limos or preschool children to have birthday parties as elaborate as weddings.

Is all this excess healthy? Who started this trend? And why did we as a society follow it?

There’s a fine line between making our kids feel special and making our kids feel spoiled. If every event is special, soon no event is special. Special becomes ordinary. Parents spend time, energy and money trying to top the last party, the last gift, or the last event. It’s a crazy maker for parents and an entitlement maker for kids.

Have you blindly followed the crowd? Try this: Before mindlessly buying the latest gadget or allowing your child to participate in some activity just because everyone else is, stop. Look beyond the moment. Is the decision in your child’s best interest in the long term? Resist the urge to give too much, too soon. Instead, give your child the opportunity to look forward to things as they mature; then special things really will be special. Anticipation is an antidote for entitlement. 

Yes, we live in the age of entitlement. But our families don’t have to be victims. We can chart a new course—a better one—for our children. Entitlement isn’t merely a function of giving our kids too much stuff; it’s also a function of failing to give our kids the stuff they really need: parental guidance, wisdom, and direction. With a little know-how and effort, we can turn the tide of entitlement.

Donna Jones is a national speaker who travels from coast to coast helping women find and follow God in real, everyday life. She’s the author of Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting GodTaming Your Family Zoo and Raising Kids with Good Manners. She resides in southern California with her pastor hubby and their three kids. She loves a good cup of coffee, great conversation and laughing until her sides hurt. For more on her books, ministry or free resources, visit Donna at www.donnajones.org.





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Christianity

Drew Barrymore Swears Off Marriage as Outdated – Here’s Why She’s Wrong


5. God Made Marriage for Our Benefit

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God made marriage because he knew it was in our best interest to do this life with a partner.

When God made Adam even before sin entered the world, God said that Adam being alone was not good (Genesis 2:18). Humans are made for community and marriage is the most fundamental building block to a strong sense of community in our lives.

Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” These words show us that marriage was intended to be a God-inspired institution that is fueled by mutual love and respect.

Ephesians 5 shares that marriage in it’s best form should be filled with unity. We should care for our spouse with the same diligence that we use to care for ourselves. For most of us, we need the accountability of our marriage vows for us to be willing and able to truly love another human in the ways the Bible calls us to.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” God knows that we are better together.

God desires for you to have a life partner that is there to help you up when you are struggling and someone for you that you are committed to that you can enjoy life’s sweetest moments with too! God knows you can accomplish more in this life when you are not alone. Having a partner who can take the kids, make you coffee when you need it, or help clean the house leads to a fuller more productive life.

Two get a better return on their labor than one.

Marriage isn’t always easy and doesn’t always go as we hope. After all, it is the union of two imperfect humans and while we all aspire to offer each other unconditional love and respect, we sometimes fail in this regard.

Thankfully God offers us grace for those moments we fail too! These are not reasons to abandon the institution that God created because he knows we need a family unit, a partner, and even more than that he wants us to experience the deep joy a lifetime of shared love brings too!

It’s these trying moments that actually help us to become more perseverant. If you’ve found yourself feeling disillusioned with marriage as Drew has; pray that God would heal your heart so you can see again the gift that marriage is intended to be for your life.

Photo Credit: ©Sokol Laliçi/Pexels


Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page, Blog or follow her on Instagram.





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Christianity

10 Things I Hope Never Go Back to Normal after COVID-19


9. A Return to Bible Reading and Prayer

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Pre-COVID-19, if you asked people what hindered them from spending quality and quantity time in Bible reading and prayer, you’d hear the word busyness a lot. For many, COVID-19-induced limitations have become an invitation to spiritual renewal.

Without a lengthy commute, they have time to linger with the Scriptures, start that Bible study they’ve always wanted to do, and pray for more than a minute or two.

With evenings free, online Bible studies have popped up everywhere as men and women “gather” to explore God’s Word. Several of my friends, experiencing the marital challenges that come from sheltering at home, committed to meet weekly over Zoom to do the Revive Our Hearts 30-Day Husbands Encouragement Challenge.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media or television, many Christians have spent their extra time in God’s presence. I hope this never goes back to normal.

10. A Right Perspective of Ourselves

In pre-COVID-19 days, when we enjoyed health, wealth, and freedom, we felt powerful and independent. We were invincible. Buoyed by our successes, we felt in control and secure. When COVID-19 restricted our freedoms, threatened our health and wellbeing, and impacted our ability to earn and spend money, much of our self-sufficiency evaporated.

A profound sense of our own mortality sparked widespread fear. We learned, some for the first time, that we are not the master of our own destiny. A greater Power rules the world.

This truth has been life-changing when paired with faith. Although we’ve taken prudent measures to keep ourselves and our families safe, we’ve refused to live in fear, knowing God alone holds the power of life and death.

Recognizing our impotence and His power, we’ve learned to pray for His protection, then do what He calls us to do despite potential danger. We’ve discovered God is our provider, not ourselves or our government, and we can trust Him.

“When we are weak,” Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10 reminds us, “He is strong.” In the midst of the COVID-19 chaos, we’ve tapped into the peace that defies all understanding and discovered that the safest place to be is in the palm of God’s hand.

I hope this never goes back to normal.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Koldunova Anna


Lori Hatcher is a pastor’s wife who lives delightfully close to her four grandchildren in Lexington, South Carolina. To fight spiritual boredom and provide a fresh resource for quiet times, she wrote  Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible (Our Daily Bread Publishing). Her first book, Hungry for God…Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women , received the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award. Lori’s also a blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).





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Christianity

Was Satan Really an Angel?


3 Truths to Remember about Satan and Fallen Angels

As you can see, Satan is far more than a red figure with horns and a pitchfork. He is an ancient being who has real spiritual power that he wields for evil and selfish purposes. In particular, he is the enemy of Christians and seeks their destruction. So here are 3 important truths to remember as we navigate that spiritual reality. 

1. Jesus and Satan are not equal opposites.

 It’s a big mistake to think of God and the devil as equal opposites. That gives Satan way more credit than he’s due.

 The power differential between God and Satan is that of an infinite Creator and the work of his creation. No matter how cunning, crafty, or powerful Satan becomes in his rebellion against God, he will never come anywhere near rivaling the power of the one who spoke him into existence.

 Simply put, there are no angelic beings, whether fallen or righteous, who are any match for the power and might of Jesus.

2. Angelic beings are more powerful than you (but not the Holy Spirit).

On the other hand, an equally dangerous mistake is to underestimate the power of Satan. He’s not more powerful than God, but he is more powerful than you. Satan has been crafting dark and wicked schemes for millennia. He’s a skilled liar and manipulator, the power of whom is unparalleled by any mortal human. 

But while we ought to be vigilant against Satan, we don’t need to fear him. We don’t even know his actual name. I think that’s by design. It’s a subtle indicator that he’s not even a big enough threat to God that we even need to know his name. 

So while Satan—or, for that matter, any fallen angelic being–could easily defeat us, we still don’t need to fear. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have become one with him by the Holy Spirit. And because of that, the devil has no power over you except that which you allow him to have.

3. Satan’s defeat was foretold from the beginning. 

From the opening chapters of Genesis, we know the end from the beginning. Even after the serpent succeeds at leading Adam and Eve astray, God declares him defeated. Here’s what God says to the serpent.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

And we see this promise fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus. Though Jesus was dealt a fatal blow, as he gave up his spirit, he crushed the head of the serpent. And we look forward to a day when we will see this promise completely fulfilled. 

“That ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan” will be thrown into a lake of fire, never to hurt or harm anyone again (Revelation 20). This is the hope we stand on, because of the Cross of Christ. 

Stay Prepared for Spiritual Warfare

Many of us who were raised in a western culture are often blinded to the spiritual realities and unseen forces at play. We read about them. We discuss them. But few of us actually engage them. 

And in so doing, we may leave ourselves vulnerable to spiritual attack. The quickest way to lose a battle is to not realize that you’re in one. 

The power of Jesus is far more than words on a page and hope for when we die. Spiritual battle is taking place every day, all around us. If we are to be effective spiritual warriors, then we’ll need to lean into prayer, attune our hearts to the very real presence of God, and develop discernment as we seek to do the work of our Father. 

Our enemy is great, but our God is greater. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/mbolina





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Prayer

A Prayer for the Wildfires

The news and images emerging from the fires in California are hard to believe. Skies have turned red, filled with smoke over cities and counties as “historic winds” have fueled multiple wildfires across the state. As the governor declares a state of emergency, families are evacuating to escape the flames, knowing they may never see their homes again. Livelihoods and businesses are being lost as firefighters and first responders do everything in their power to stop the spread of the fires.

If we have learned anything in the extraordinary events of 2020, it is how little we are in control, and how much of our lives and livelihoods rest in the mercy of our good and powerful God, who gives and takes away.

As you follow the news, lift up these prayers for the state of California, for the first responders with their lives on the lines, and for the victims experiencing such sudden loss.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Kara Capaldo

A Prayer for the State of California

Father, we know that you have appointed leadership and government for a specific time and place. Those in power are there because it is your will. We pray for leadership across the state to make the best possible decisions for the safety and welfare of California’s communities.

Give them wisdom and speed as they delegate and make potentially difficult calls. May those in power trust you and look to you for guidance and strength, so that you might be glorified through even the most terrifying events, when tragedy and destruction seem to be in the driver’s seat.

We pray, Father, for communities, for families, for neighborhoods, and businesses to look out for one another as these events play out. We ask that your spirit would pour itself out over the land, to protect the most vulnerable and in need, and see them to safety.

We pray that even in the most terrible turn of events that you would be recognized and trusted as good.

God, may a spirit of peace and faith in your strength and might win out over a spirit of fear. We pray that those on the ground, nearest to the danger and destruction would feel your guiding hand, and not succumb to terror. Provide the peace and faith that can only come with the work of your Son, Jesus, through your Holy Spirit.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Design Credit: © SWN/Bethany Pyle

first responder fire fighter standing in ashes, prayer for California fires

A Prayer for First Responders

Father, we thank you for the men and women who you have raised up to serve and work in the most dangerous circumstances in order to deliver safety and health to those at risk. Whether they belong to you or not, we thank you for their hearts that have chosen sacrifice and service over self-preservation.

Give them strength and courage, God. Give them endurance to keep fighting as they push back the threat of the fires spreading so close to cities and towns, engulfing homes and livelihoods.

We pray for the believers among the first responders, for those who belong to you that now find themselves on the frontlines of danger and risk. May they take heart knowing that the God who created all life, who holds this world and its suffering and joy in His hands, who tells the wind where and when to blow, that this same God lives and dwells in them, and that He will provide God-sized courage and strength when they need it the most.

We ask, God, that your children who are fighting alongside the lost to push back the flames, or the medical professionals delivering care and first aid to the injured, we pray that the light of your salvation will shine clear and bright through their words and deeds. We pray that in the middle of these tragic events, even as dangers increase and relief and rest seem far away, that you will be made famous for your mercy and deliverance.

You have shown yourself through your Word to be a strong tower of refuge and shelter (Psalm 61:3). Lord, in your mercy, reveal this truth about yourself to the firefighters battling the flames, and to those they rescue along the way.

May your children, and those you are drawing to yourself, come to know you as their deliverer, their Savior in the frightening events in California, even as the fires close in. You remain strong, on your throne, and among us.

“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Stuart Shaw

adult couple standing looking at burned house, prayer for california fires

A Prayer for the Victims of the California Fires

Father, in a matter of hours, countless numbers of people’s homes and possessions have been destroyed. Where life and laughter once took place, nothing but ashes remain. We pray for those who have lost everything they have known, all they have worked for. We pray for your provision for those who find themselves without shelter or a place to rest. In your mercy and provision God, may those who have plenty answer the call to provide for those who are without.

Soften hearts so that strangers will provide for strangers. We pray for room to be made for those who are displaced, whether they find shelter with family, friends, a church body, or strangers, soften hearts in the process, as you call on people to be your hands and feet, and meet the needs of those in greatest need. May those who serve the needs of their neighbor recognize that they do this not just for themselves or for their neighbor, but for you as well.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” – Matthew 25:35

We pray for those who have lost loved ones to the fires. Most of us cannot imagine the pain and suffering such a sudden loss would bring. We pray that you would lead us, who watch from near and far across the country, to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Let us not skip over this important step of lamenting for what is lost as we feel the pains of a world that is not yet made right, and the effects of the Fall still spread with a powerful sting across our land, and through our lives.

For those who do not know you, who are not reconciled to you, Father God, we pray that this nearness to life and death would jolt them out of their sleep. May they recognize that you are Lord, that they live in the mercy of your will, and that a life separated from you is headed toward destruction. We pray you open their eyes to the truth of your Word, that their hearts may soften to receive your promises of a Kingdom that will not be lost in flames. May they put their eternal hope in the saving work of Jesus, and not in riches or material security.

Lord, you are the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). We pray for the victims and the friends and families of victims to know and experience your comfort like never before. We pray they feel the comfort and reassurance of your presence, that they would trust and rejoice in your promises of new life and restoration found in your Word. Even as the fires continue to spread, may those experiencing loss worship you as they hope in your coming Kingdom.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” – Matthew 10:29

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Vlad Teodor

Sarah Martin is the editor for iBelieve. She has previously enjoyed editing and writing for her alma mater, Christopher Newport University’s newspaper, and for various ministry organizations. She has a B.A. degree in English and Writing and enjoys a good dive into British literature along with a strong cup of black tea.

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Christianity

5 Meaningful Ways to Live Differently in Light of 9/11


Early on the morning of 9/11, my routine was exactly like the day before. But that Tuesday, everything changed in a few terrifying moments. As the images played and replayed over the next weeks, many of us went through a succession of emotions: shock, then fear, and later a heavy sense of grief.

Faith was my lifeline, the compass that helped me navigate through such a chaotic time. As days and weeks went on and things felt a little more ‘normal’, two contrasting truths battled in my mind:

1. Life is by nature fragile and fleeting, while 

2. God is firm and eternal.

Eventually, I began to focus more on the second truth. My heavenly Father not only calmed my spirit, but filled me with a fresh vision of purpose—an urgent desire to make each day count for His kingdom. Since then, I’ve been on a journey to align my life more with this purpose. And He desires all His people to travel this road that brings both challenges and blessings. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken so far. May they encourage you through the anniversary of this life-changing event, and into a hopeful future.

1. I Am Putting More Trust In God to Lead My Life

The 9/11 attacks burst the bubble of security I had been living in, and tore down my illusion of control. I reacted with fear until I realized that God has always had authority over our lives, and everything else, too. I’ve been learning to release my agenda and to take up His instead, because it will lead to His best for me.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. – Psalm 32:8

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 12:2

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Caleb Oquendo

2. I Am Making Worship a Priority

Watching those strong buildings crumble on 9/11 made the world seem small and shaky. Admitting that truth left me wobbly, until I remembered that God, not the world, is our source of strength. He is greater than any created thing, and will never leave us. I’ve been making a habit of expressing the praise and thanks that He is due each day.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Cor 10:31

…ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name… – 1 Chronicles 16:28-29

He must become greater; I must become less. – John 3:30

3. I Am Looking For Ways to Impact Others for the Better

It was hard to watch all the first responders run into danger and even certain death on September 11th. I marveled at their examples, and realized they were living out God’s call for us to love selflessly. They continue to inspire me. I’ve been aiming to look beyond myself, to see how I can minister to others more effectively.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:16

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

4. I Am Asking God to Change Any Faulty Attitudes 

The actions of the 9/11 attackers showed me how wrong thoughts and attitudes can lead to horribly destructive actions. After some soul searching, I ended up bogged down in regret for some of my sins in this area. But God always wants to do new things, especially within us. I’ve been inviting Him to renew my mind and refine my heart.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs… – Ephesians 4:29

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… – Galatians 5:22-23

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 the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock

5. I Am Digging Deeper into God’s Word and Leaning on His Promises

The days surrounding 9/11 were dark, and I, like many, felt overwhelmed. Instinctively, I grabbed onto Scripture. Psalms reminded me of God’s love for us, and Books like Revelation gave me a fresh sense of God’s majesty. Still, discouragement weighed me down until verses of God’s promises came to mind. I’ve been leaning into His grace and goodness that shines through each one.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly… – Colossians 3:16

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you… – Isaiah 41:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. – John 14:27

Even now, it’s difficult to think about what happened on September 11th. The images and emotions can feel as fresh today as in that moment. As I look back, I am more grateful than ever for God’s presence during that fearful time, and what He brought out of it. For, not only did He light our way through the storm, He gives us the opportunity to help others see that same light.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/LoveTheWind


Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather’s blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com





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4 Things Parents Should Know about Mulan on Disney Plus


Her name is “Mulan,” and this young woman draws attention wherever she goes.

She’s nimble, active, full of energy and independent. In other words, she’s all of the things a woman should not be in ancient China.

“What man would want to marry a girl who flits around rooftops chasing chickens?” her mom asks.

But Mulan isn’t worried about marriage. She’s concerned about her aging and partially disabled father, who has been drafted into the emperor’s army to help beat back a dangerous invasion. Her parents had no sons, and as the only male in the house, Mulan’s father is required to fight – leg brace and all.

Mulan, though, believes she has a better idea. She’ll take her father’s place in the army and disguise herself as a man. She’ll also use his sword and wear his armor, each of which served him well in previous battles.

And she’ll sneak away in the middle of the night so her parents – especially her father – can’t stop her. Will she survive?

Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan (PG-13), now on Disney Plus, tells the well-known story of a young woman who becomes a legendary warrior while hiding her secret. It stars Yifei Liu as Mulan and was directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife, McFarland, USA).

Here are four things you should know:

Photo courtesy: ©Disney


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.





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