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Saturday, October 20, 2018

To set apart.

Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

I have watched sports for pretty much my whole life.  One thing I’ve learned is the most successful coaches and athletes are those who are truly dedicated to their craft. It’s true in all walks of life, but I believe it bears itself out most clearly in athletics. Once the competition begins, pure talent only goes so far; at some point, those who dedicated the most time and energy to training, planning and preparing have the advantage.

Similarly, Joshua wanted the Israelites to prepare. In Joshua 3:5, he instructed them to get ready to be used by God: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”

The word “consecrate” is interesting. It means “to set apart; designate or dedicate for a special purpose.” Consecration is a complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Put it all together, and that verse is saying to surrender our lives and dedicate all we have to the Lord, for a day will come when He’ll do far beyond what we believe is possible. It’s in Christ, in living and competing for Him, that our true identity and fulfillment can be found.

Live by this belief: We can all be Christ’s ambassadors for His Kingdom, consecrated to fulfill His special purposes here on Earth. – Shane Williamson

Dear Lord, physical training comes natural to a competitor. We know how it impacts their performance. Please shift our mindsets to understand how much more valuable spiritual training is for us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2018


Luke 4:1-2 (ESV)
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry

I battle with dry mouth syndrome and many times I find I just don’t want to eat.  On the flip side, I need to eat, and I have a tendency to get hangry if I don’t (hangry = hungry + angry)! With that info, you can probably deduce that fasting isn’t exactly my favorite part of the Christian life. However, I think that God intended fasting to be just that—a denial of our temporal pleasure to reset our appetite for what is most satisfying: God.

Fasting is a necessity in the life of a believer, but many Christians have a misunderstanding about what fasting is and what it accomplishes. It’s actually a very simple concept that can profoundly affect our lives.

Many view fasting as some kind of devotional currency they can use to get what they want from God. That’s fake news. At its core, fasting is about bringing the prayer of “less of me and more of you” to life. Fasting is about the denial of self, the shifting of priorities, and the acknowledgment of what it means to hunger not just for mere morsels of food but for the life-changing presence God. It is a resolute course of action anointed by His Spirit, not by our will.

When was the last time you fasted?

Dear Lord, we pray that we would set our minds completely on You. When we fast help us to have our hearts and minds on You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

As maturing believers, we must learn to pray “in the Spirit.” This means not simply praying under the guidance of our own small intellect but allowing the Spirit to actually lead us in prayer. When I was growing up, my church family would call this “praying through.”

Now, there is incredible power in praying in the Spirit using our own words, speaking from our heart to God about our personal thoughts, desires, and petitions. These prayers are led by the power and anointing of the Spirit of God, but they are still made in accordance with our own understanding. This is powerful and essential, but there is another dimension of prayer that many believers seldom experience.

In some circles this aspect of prayer is referred to as a prayer language; in others, it’s referred to as a baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is often evidenced by speaking in what the Bible calls “other tongues.”

Different denominations—and even different churches within the same denomination—can vary in how they interpret Scripture in regards to speaking in tongues or praying in the Spirit. The issue has become so convoluted that what the Bible actually says about praying in tongues is rarely addressed, and I think the result is that one of the beautiful gifts of God is absent from the prayer lives of many believers.

Personally speaking, the greatest moves of God I’ve experienced in my own heart and life were when I moved from praying in my own understanding to praying in the Spirit.

I would describe this as being truly broken before God in prayer and worship. Even if you’ve never experienced this dimension of prayer or the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is the promise and gift of God to all believers. Find a place to pray and ask God to baptize you in His Spirit, speaking in other tongues just as so many believers in the New Testament experienced regularly. You will never be the same.

Dear Lord, help us to make the decision to really set our self to prayer.  We pray that we would allow the Holy Spirit to completely fill us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Daniel 6:10 (ESV)
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

I recently read a passage of Scripture regarding the call to pray that really struck a chord in my heart. Matthew 26: 36-46 recounts the instance when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. We find that at a certain point, Jesus instructs the majority of the disciples to stay back while asking Peter, James, and John to come with Him deeper into the garden to pray. Then the Bible says that Jesus “went a little further to pray.”

There is something to be said about the example of Jesus illustrated in those five words: “a little further to pray”. When God desires to take us further in our purpose, He calls us to go further in our prayer life. And in order to go a little further in our purpose, we must purpose to go a little further in our prayers. Sometimes prayer requires an extra effort or a greater intention; sometimes it needs to be elevated in our priorities.

 I once read that if you don’t have a time and place to pray, it won’t happen.  Having a set time and place or an appointment on the calendar helps in making our prayer life more consistent. Sometimes when God wants to take us “a little further,” He calls us to change not the length of our prayer time but the consistency of it.

Our prayer life is not the litmus test for our spiritual discipline but rather the indicator of the health of our relationship with God. Relationships are built and sustained by constant communication. Of course, God already knows the details of our lives, but there is an expressed dependence upon God when we invite Him into those details. The man or woman who does not pray is essentially telling God, “I've got this,” revealing alarming pride and self-sufficiency.

God desires to take us beyond what we can do in our own strength in order to fulfill His purpose in our lives. But truthfully, we can only journey in our calling insofar as we’ve paved the distance in prayer.

God equips us for our destiny in the moments we share with Him in prayer.

How consistent is your prayer life? Do you have a designated time and place to pray?

Dear Lord, help us to set a place and time for prayer. We know we can’t do this thing called life without you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


1 John 5:14 (ESV)
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

I read a book several years ago that changed the way I prayed. It’s called Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In it, Batterson emphasizes the point that in order to see God work in a specific way in our lives, we must pray specifically; conversely, general prayers get general answers.

I know that there have been times that I’ve prayed very generic, vague prayers—prayers like, “Lord, touch my life and lead me in your ways.” Not a bad prayer, right? And that’s a good place to start perhaps, but admittedly it isn’t a very specific prayer. A much more powerful approach to this prayer would be, “Lord, you see what’s happening right now in my life. I am being faced with the difficult decision to relocate due to my job. Align my heart with your will. Examine the motivation of my heart for wanting to follow this opportunity and relocate. Help me see the impact of this move on my life and family five or ten years down the road. Give me clarity about the right decision to make. Your Word instructs me not to lean on my own understanding and to submit all my ways to you. So I submit this opportunity to you. If this is what I should do, make the path plain before me. If it’s not the right direction, close the door before me. I place it in your hands and trust you to be my guide.” That direct prayer will often yield a direct answer from God.

Let me clarify that Jesus isn’t some “genie in a bottle.” But when we make His kingdom our priority and when our lives revolve around His will, the desires of our heart will align with His and He will make a way for us to live out what He has called us to do.

Could your prayers be more specific today?

Dear Lord, help us when we pray to You to be specific on the needs we have. We know that You already know our needs but help us to come before You as Your children. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Job 42:10 (ESV)
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Today, I have two questions for you…

The first is a question I was asked years ago: “If God answered the prayers you’ve been praying, would it change anyone else’s world but your own?”

The next is a question God put on my heart as I studied about prayer: How much of God’s miraculous power are we unable to experience because we never pray prayers that are bigger than us?

Now of course God is concerned with the details of our lives, and what a glorious truth that is! But He’s much more concerned with His kingdom, will, and glory being expressed through our lives as we activate His power through our prayers on behalf of others.

In the world in which we live, with the deep issues and problems we face as people, we often look to governments, kings, policies, presidents, and world systems to cure the symptoms of the spiritual depravity present in humanity. The truth is, we will always come up short hoping to cure the ills of society with man-made systems. There are many strongholds that dominate our culture. We often point to a people group or a person on which to place all the blame for the issues of our culture. However, the Bible teaches us that it is never merely a person—“flesh and blood”—but spirits—“principalities and powers”—that we actually fight (Ephesians 6:12). Spiritual issues require spiritual solutions. The answer to spiritual strongholds is prayer. Prayer will do more than politics, protests, or even pulpits. Practical solutions are good and necessary to manage symptoms, but they are ultimately inadequate in overcoming them.

Who and what can you pray for today beyond your own immediate circumstances and dreams? How about praying for the several thousand victims of human-trafficking? Pray that God would expose the deeds of evil people and bring rescue to those held captive. How about praying for presidents, kings, and countries? Pray that God would grant godly leadership, justice, and harmony in various places all over the world. How about praying for that girl in your class or that co-worker at your job? Perhaps they need encouragement and hope.

Pray prayers beyond the scope of your own life, and watch what God will do in your own life.

Dear Lord, as we pray help our eyes, ears and hearts be open to the world around us.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Proverbs 3:1-6 (ESV)
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you. 
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man. 
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

I have heard it said, in one way or another, that prayer is good but that ultimately you have to do something. Although I completely agree with that statement, I have to admit that in my own life, I’m typically very good at “doing something,” From my perspective, we are quick to act and slow to pray when it ought to be that we are quick to pray so that our activity is directed by the clarity and understanding we receive when God aligns our hearts with His.

I’m no car mechanic, and I know just little about car maintenance, but I do know that proper alignment is essential to keeping a vehicle moving in the right direction without constantly pulling one way or the other. In the same way, alignment is integral to the life of the believer. Prayer is about aligning our heart’s preferences with God’s will.

When Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, he begins by saying, “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Notice that before we petition God to meet our daily needs or to forgive our sins, we align ourselves with the glory of God and His will for His kingdom.

In your journey today, do you feel your soul pulling to the left or the right? Is your life full of activity but without clear direction? Seek God in consistent prayer, and He will align your steps with His purpose for your life.

Dear Lord, we pray today that You will align our steps in a way that is pleasing to You.  We pray for a clear direction from You today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Matthew 13:31-32 (ESV)
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Show me a praying person, and I’ll show you a person full of faith!

Before we talk about prayer, we must first address faith. In fact, the prayers we pray say a lot about the faith we possess. It takes faith to pray. Faith is the foundation on which we build our knowledge of the reality of God. Faith is the currency of heaven, and prayer is the means by which we exchange sorrow for joy, ashes for beauty, and spiritual deadness for supernatural power.

When we attempt to fulfill ourselves by placing our faith in anything other than God, we always come up empty. Instead of praying and receiving the joy of the Lord as an outflow of our relationship with Jesus, we try to purchase joy and peace by other means. Life becomes one social escapade after another—buying as much stuff as our credit card limit will allow, hanging out with friend after friend after friend, filling our lives with shallow relationships and meaningless things—and all the while, true joy and real peace and genuine companionship and lasting satisfaction are waiting to be found in an intimate relationship with Jesus, a relationship which is initiated and sustained by faith.

Jesus speaks of faith as a “grain of mustard seed.” In this parable about the mustard seed, Jesus is sharing an important idea with us: faith begins in seed form. Faith in God is planted in the soil of our hearts and cultivated by the Spirit of God, and over time, it produces joy, peace, humility, fulfillment, power, and every other rich quality of the character of God. Faith is the source of these blessings, and prayer is the way that the source gets into the soil.

Some people do not feel inclined to pray because often times, prayer just looks like a seed. Nothing too thrilling about a seed, right? But through the eyes of faith, we don’t just see our prayers for what they are when we’re praying them; we see the potential of what they can become when God answers them! Great prayer reveals great faith, and great faith releases great prayers. Great faith isn’t measured in magnitude but in our resoluteness to believe God against all odds.

Jesus tells the disciples to have faith in God and to speak to mountains without any doubt in their hearts. Perhaps instead of seeds of faith, you’ve had seeds of doubt and fear planted in your heart. Pray for the Spirit of God to uproot those things today and activate your faith through prayer.

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can come to You anytime trough prayer. Help us to get rid of the seeds of doubt and fear that are planted in our heart. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2018

U2 Front Man Bono Extols Love of Psalms, New Testament Through Song Lyrics

Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.

It’s difficult to argue that any general market band has injected the Bible into its songs more than Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legends, U2. From the opening track of its 1981 sophomore release October to its 2017 album Songs of Experience the iconic Irish foursome has consistently gone back to its spiritual roots as former members of the Shalom Fellowship in Dublin.

There’s no better example than “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the 1987 platinum album The Joshua Tree. Not only did the song provide U2 with its second U.S. #1 radio single, but it was also loaded with biblical references:

I have spoke with the tongue of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1)

I believe in the Kingdom Come (Matthew 6:10)

You broke the bonds/And you loosened the chains (Psalm 107:13-14)

Carried the cross of my shame (1 Peter 2:24)

Four years later, U2 dedicated an entire song from Achtung Baby to Judas (one of the original 12 disciples) and his betrayal of Jesus. “Until The End of the World” begins with a scene from The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30), continues in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed (Matthew 26:36-56), and concludes with a guilt-ridden Judas taking his life (Matthew 27:3-5).

Another example can be found on “Yahweh” from the 2004 release How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The song title itself references the biblical name of God usually written as Lord in modern English Bibles), which is found in the Hebrew Bible well over 5,000 times and first appears in Genesis 2:4. Then, towards the end of the song, there is this refrain taken from Matthew 5:14-16:

Take this city

A city should be shining on a hill

Take this city

If it be your will

While three of its four members grew up around the Bible, lead singer and primary lyricist Bono is often credited for bringing its content into U2’s musical offerings. His love for the book of Psalms is especially apparent and has even impacted the band’s live performances in unique ways. Bono noted this in the 2016 documentary The Psalms, in which he was featured along with Eugene Peterson, author of The Message.

“In the dressing room before a show, we would read the psalms as a band and then walk out into arenas and stadiums—the words igniting us, inspiring us,” Bono revealed.

The lead singer has also been known to read Psalm 116 from The Message before the band kicks into opening set. Then, at some point in the concert, U2 will play its earliest biblically inspired song, “Gloria” (from the 1981 album October), which references Psalm 51:15. Another popular tune for concertgoers is “40” (from the 1983 album War), which is literally taken from Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He brought me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

Bono explained his admiration in the introduction to the book Selections From the Book of Psalms.

“At 12, I was a fan of David, he felt familiar…like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious and he was a star…He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave, facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm—a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues…Words and music did for me what solid religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for the Bible.  We thank You for all the lessons we can learn from applying to all aspects of our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Journey Songwriter Jonathan Cain Injects Biblical Themes Into Legendary Catalog

John 8:32 (ESV)
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Known for their unforgettable rock anthems (e.g. “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Separate Ways,” etc.) and chart-topping power ballads (e.g. “Faithfully,” “Open Arms,” etc.) Journey has been a significant part of America’s pop culture for over 40 years.

The casual fan, however, might not be aware that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band has at times laced its lyrics with biblical references. On the 1978 breakout album Infinity, the hit song “Wheel in the Sky” had some critics and fans speculating that the title might be taken from Ezekiel 1 and the prophet’s elaborate vision.

While the band has never confirmed a direct correlation, there have been other more obvious instances such as the song “Believe” from the 2005 album Generations, which utilizes a portion of John 8:32.

I believe in you, believe in me

I believe in you, believe in me

Oh, I believe the truth will set you free

I believe in you, believe in me

The most obvious shift towards biblically themed lyrics, however, can be found on the 1996 album Trial By Fire, which featured the songwriting team of Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain for the last time before Perry parted ways with Journey. According to Cain, Perry brought his Bible into the studio and the two pondered what would happen if they used some of its text as their inspiration.

One such song was the lead track, “Message of Love,” which included these two lines from the bridge:

I hear…but I never listen

I see…and still I’m blind

Those bars invoked the words of Jesus who explained to the disciples why he used parables to share his message:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13, NIV)

Another biblically inspired song was the title track, “Trial By Fire,” which invokes Psalm 66:10 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 and includes direct references to 2 Corinthians 4 within the first three lines of the first verse:

Treasures in the jars of clay (v. 7)

Let the light shine out of darkness (v. 6)

Fallen down but not destroyed (v. 9)

It's just another trial by fire

“There I am with a Bible on my console,” Cain recalled. “It was profound and wonderful, and we wrote this beautiful song.”

In 2016, Cain recorded the solo album What God Wants To Hear and for the first time wrote all of the songs based on the Christian faith and the Bible.

“I’ve always been seeking out songs since I was young,” Cain said. “I never had any idea how rich the Bible was with imagery. I got lost in it.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for the way Your word finds its way into the may stream. We pray that those that hear the words will be open to the message. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Bible Finds Its Way Into The Rolling Stones’ Music Despite Lack of Belief

Matthew 16:19 (ESV)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

For more than 60 years, rock and roll music has been one of the most pervasive forces within popular culture. Concurrently, the Bible has consistently influenced rock artists and their songs. This has even been true for many who don’t necessarily ascribe to a particular religious belief system.

Such is the case with iconic English rockers, The Rolling Stones. Lead singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards have written most of the band’s songs including several that make direct references to the Bible even though both have had a tempestuous relationship with the Bible.

“I read the Bible sometimes but it bores me to death,” Richards told reporters at a 2008 press event for the Martin Scorsese documentary, Shine A Light.

Jagger, who was raised in the Church of England and has practiced in several religions, echoed his band mate’s sentiment during another interview:

“I don’t have belief in the Holy Book,” he said.

Despite public rejection, the Bible has managed to find its way into The Rolling Stones’ music on multiple occasions. Early in the band’s career, the Bible had a significant impact on the 1968 album Beggars Banquet. For instance, the song “Prodigal Son” (written and originally recorded by Reverend Robert Wilkins) presented a literal retelling of Jesus’ parable found in Luke 15:11-32.

Then, on the controversial song “Sympathy For The Devil,” Jagger and Richards presented a tongue-and-cheek narrative from the perspective of the Bible’s original and most pervasive antagonist. Within the lyrics, Lucifer takes credit for a number of historical events such as the Russian revolution, World War II, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

The opening of “Sympathy For The Devil” includes references to Jesus praying in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-41; Luke 22:3-46) and the trial before Pilate (Mark 15:1-15 and Matthew 27:11-26).

Nearly 30 years later, the Rolling Stones released Bridges To Babylon (1997) in which the title not only contained a reference to a key city mentioned in the Bible, but also housed another example of the Bible’s influence on their music. On “Saint of Me,” Jagger sings about three men who would eventually receive sainthood from the Catholic Church, two of which were prominent New Testament protagonists:

Saint Paul the persecutor

Was a cruel and sinful man (Acts 8:1-3)

Jesus hit him with a blinding light

And then his life began (Acts 9)

John the Baptist was a martyr

But he stirred up Herod's hate (Mark 6:17-18)

And Salome got her wish

To have him served up on a plate (Mark 6:19-29)

Bible themes have also shown up in Jagger’s solo material including the title track from his 1993 album Wandering Spirit. The song is from the perspective of a man who is struggling to find his place in the world. Its theme is ripe with biblical allusions, for example:

When all the twelve Apostles try to ring me on the phone

Take a message but I won't return their call

For I have no eyes to see him (Psalm 135:16; Isaiah 44:18) and I thought I lost my way

And I know I've lost the keys to your door (Isaiah 22:22; John 10:9; Matthew 16:19)

On his fourth solo album, Goddess In The Doorway (2001), Jagger wrote and performed a duet with U2 front man Bono. “Joy,” although not explicitly biblical, it referenced common Bible concepts such as joy, grace, light and darkness, and Jesus Christ. In a 2007 interview with Independent, Jagger gave a hint as to how an artist who doesn’t ascribe a belief in the Bible can still find biblical premises showing up in their music.

“It has religious overtones, which is why I asked Bono to sing. He sings religious songs, doesn’t he?” he rhetorically responded. “I’m very ambivalent about religion. When you write songs, you think it’s going to be about one thing and something else creeps in, and you make that the theme.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your powerful word and the way it finds its way into all aspects of our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Personal Bible Provides Elvis Presley Creative, Personal Inspiration

Luke 9:25 (ESV)
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

In 2012, Elvis Presley’s Bible was sold at an auction for $94,000. Presley received the Bible from his aunt and uncle on his first Christmas at Graceland in 1957 and used it until his death in 1977.

The contents provided an enlightening look into the King of Rock & Roll’s religious curiosities. For instance, Presley underlined Luke 9:44 and at the top of the page wrote this paraphrasing of Luke 9:25:

“For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world and lose himself or be cast away.”

Presley’s upbringing in church has also been well documented, but that influence rarely manifested in his original music. One exception was in the tongue-in-cheek song “Hard Headed Woman” (by songwriter Claude Demetrius), which shot to #1 on the radio charts in 1958.

In the 12-bar blues flavored tune, Presley opines that mankind’s troubles can be traced back to what he believes are strong-willed and stubborn women and provides examples from the Hebrew Bible such as Eve (Genesis 2:7–3:6), Delilah (Judges 16:4-21), and Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-33).

Most of Presley’s biblically inspired lyrics, however, are found in his popular gospel albums, which tallied over five million record sales. His Hand In Mine (1960) included an adaptation of the African-American spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” taken from Joshua 6:15-21 while the title track from How Great Thou Art (1967) invoked an array of Bible references (Psalm 8:3, Psalm 145:3, Romans 8:32, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, John 1:29, etc.).

Presley released his third and final gospel album in 1972. The title track, “He Touched Me” (by songwriter Bill Gaither) had already been made popular by Doug Oldham, The Imperials, The Blackwood Brothers, the Cathedral Quartet, and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quarter, but Presley’s rendition brought the song to an international audience. It also garnered him the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Inspirational Performance.

“I believe in the Bible,” Elvis once said. “I believe that all good things come from God. I don't believe I'd sing the way I do if God hadn't wanted me to.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for the talents that You give to each of us.  Help us to use them for You today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lost: Multiple Bible References Dot Iconic Drama Series

John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

When ABC introduced the survival-themed serial drama Lost in September 2004, there was no way to predict the cultural impact it would have over the next six years.

Part of its appeal was the ensemble cast that featured well-known actors like Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Dominic Monaghan, and Michael Emerson, and introduced rising stars like Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Ian Somerhalder, and Michelle Rodriguez.

Ultimately, however, it was the thematic elements of adventure, mystery, science fiction and the supernatural that kept viewers coming back for more. Based mostly on an uninhabited island somewhere in the South Pacific, Lost follows the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 as they attempt to navigate a host of treacherous adversaries.

While the first season spends most of its time on the beach, the castaways eventually make their way deeper into the island, and that’s where the Bible becomes increasingly prominent throughout the series. In fact, Bibles are physically used as props or visible in at least eight episodes including “Ab Aerterno” when Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) is seen reading Luke 4, the story where Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness.

The Bible is also represented in Lost through several of its episode titles including “Numbers,” “Exodus, Part 1,” “Exodus, Part 2,” “The 23rd Psalm,” “Fire + Water” (Matthew 3:11), “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Exodus 2:22), and “316” (John 3:16). Several of the characters have biblical names (Seth, Jacob, Ben, Aaron, Naomi, Ruth Sarah, Rachel, David, Daniel, etc.), as well, and some entertainment pundits were convinced that these references were purposefully inserted.

“It’s not a mistake that (baby Aaron) is named after the brother of Moses,” pastor and author Chris Seay said. “It’s not a mistake, clearly, that Jacob, also known in the Bible as Israel, plays a prominent role in this narrative. And ultimately I think the finale and the journey still very much echoes the narrative of the Exodus. We’ve got one group of people moving from slavery to freedom and to abundance.”

One of the most intriguing sources of biblically inspired narrative is found in an enigmatic character named Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who is revealed to be a Nigerian warlord and drug smuggler turned self-made priest. In the Season Two episode “What Kate Did,” he tells John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) a story about King Josiah based on 2 Kings 22 before handing him a Bible that has been hollowed out and used to conceal an instructional film for the mysterious Swan station.

Then, on two separate occasions, Eko recites Psalm 23—the first time as he sets fire to the crashed plane that houses his brother’s remains (in “The Cost of Living”), and a second time right before the island’s nefarious Smoke Monster kills him (in “The 23rd Psalm”).

Even after death, Eko’s influence on the other castaways remains thanks to his walking stick that Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan) nicknamed the “Jesus stick.” Crafted from a branch retrieved on the beach, Eko carved various Bible verses into the wood such as Psalm 23, Acts 4:12, Habakkuk 1:3, Revelation 5:3, Romans 6:12 and Galatians 3:16.

Locke retrieves the stick and intends to use it as a marker for Eko’s grave, but first notices the inscription, “Lift up your eyes and look north,” a paraphrasing of Genesis 13:14. Next to the inscription is the oddly-constructed Bible reference “John 3:05.” Locke deduces that Eko has left a clue (a compass bearing) for finding another secret hideout on the island.

“The biblical narrative is a big part of the larger story,” Chris Seay told Fox News.

In another interview to promote his book The Gospel According To Lost, he also conveyed a story he heard from an entertainment reporter.

“I went to Sunday School a few times when I was a kid, but I’ve never owned a Bible,” the journalist said. “ I’ve had to borrow one from the religion editor because they keep bringing up Scripture on Lost. I’m reading the Bible all the time now.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for the freedoms we have to share Your love though media. We pray that we would continue to be bold with the good news and share it any way we can. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Daredevil: Bible Verses Make Regular Appearance in Marvel’s Hit Superhero Drama

1 Samuel 16:7  (ESV)
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In 2015, Netflix introduced Daredevil, the first of four groundbreaking Marvel superhero series revolving around a group of New York-based characters famously known in the comics as The Defenders.

Daredevil features blind lawyer, Matt Murdock (Charlie Fox), turned vigilante who lost his sight at the age of nine, but simultaneously received heightened senses (including an internal radar-like ability) due to an automobile accident and exposure to chemical agents. Murdock was also extensively trained in martial arts and now uses all of his physical gifts to fight crime in Hell’s Kitchen.

Just like in the comics, Murdock’s Catholic faith is a key component to the overarching storyline. He struggles to reconcile his extracurricular activities in regular conversations with his priest, Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie). Sometimes they meet in the confessional booth. Other times they converse on a park bench. Regardless of the location, the Bible is regularly interjected into the dialogue.

In the 13th episode of season one, Murdock struggles as he decides how to deal with powerful crime boss Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has been responsible for numerous deaths.

“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked,” Lantom quotes. “Proverbs 25 something-or-other.”

“Meaning righteous men have a duty to stand up to evil,” Murdock responds in an attempt to interpret the passage (Proverbs 25:26) in light of his moral dilemma.

Murdock also shows up in the mini-series The Defenders and, in the first episode, is shown wrestling with his decision to no longer fight as Daredevil. In the confessional booth, he admits that he lied to his ex-girlfriend Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and told her he doesn’t miss his vigilante lifestyle. After acknowledging he had been ignoring his true feelings, Lantom brought the conversation back to the Bible.

“Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” Father Lantom says, quoting 1 Samuel 16:7.

“Can you elaborate Father?” Murdock asks.

“Ignoring doesn’t change anything Matthew,” the priest explains. “God knows your heart. Let him in, so he can help.”

“Even if it’s damaged?” Murdock responds.

“Especially if it’s damaged.”

It’s not just Murdock and Lantom, however, who opine issues of good and evil with the Bible as the core of discussion. Wilson Fisk, the villain of season one, goes on an unusual rant during the 13th episode while incarcerated in the presence of two FBI guards and an FBI agent. After paraphrasing Jesus’s parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the violent criminal makes a surprising admission.

“I’ve always thought that I was the Samaritan in that story,” Fisk says. “It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be deceived by their true nature?”

When the agent pressed for an explanation, Fisk shot back with a more accurate response.

“It means that I’m not the Samaritan, that I’m not the priest of the Levite—that I am the ill intent who set upon the traveler on a road that he should not have been on!”

Ultimately, it is Murdock who showcases his beliefs through Bible-tinged conversations with Father Lantom and a constant struggle to reconcile his after-hours job with his religious beliefs.

“Matt's faith is quite strong and he has come to rely on it — although at times it puts him in a difficult position because of who he is and what he does and what he's capable of,” Charlie Cox told Hollywood Reporter. “Part of his journey as a Catholic is to find harmony around his religion and faith, as well as who he is as Daredevil. It's a wonderful dichotomy for an actor to play because it produces so much conflict and inner turmoil.”

Dear Lord, help us to live out our faith in a way that is pleasing to You. Help us to let our faith lead us and guide us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Bible Helps Missy Franklin Deal with Olympic Disappointment

Isaiah 54:10 (ESV)
For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

2016 Summer Olympics: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

At the 2012 London Games, Missy Franklin, age 17, took the swimming community by storm with her dominant performance. She left the Olympics with four gold medals and one bronze medal, along with two world records and two American records.

Next up for Franklin was a collegiate career at the University of California-Berkeley and plans to continue her international reign with Team USA. As the 2016 Rio Games drew closer, however, she struggled to regain her form in the pool. She was still a world-class swimmer, but not quite at the same level from four years earlier.

About a month before the U.S. Olympic Trials, Franklin expressed hope amid the uncertainty with an Instagram photo of a Bible page upon which she had drawn and colored a mountain with the words “Though the mountain may crumble you will not. Isaiah 54:10.”

Then came an unexpected disappointment. Franklin only qualified for three events and failed to make the American squad in her signature race, the 100-meter backstroke. When asked about her challenges, she referenced an iconic Bible story found in 1 Samuel 17

“I felt a little bit like David facing Goliath,” Franklin explained to a reporter from The Washington Post. “But I felt like I didn’t have any stones in my pocket.”

Even though she was focused on success in the pool, she also made sure to take time for some inspiration. While preparing in Rio, Frankln was pictured in a photo that U.S. Women’s Swimming Coach Dave Marsh tweeted along with several teammates following a Bible study with Atlanta-based pastor and best-selling author Louie Giglio.

Franklin’s first two performances didn’t go as planned. She shockingly missed both finals in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke. Franklin stayed positive, however and ended her medal drought by participating in the heats that helped the 4x200-meter freestyle relay team win gold.

Three days later, she posted a photo on Twitter with the medal laid across her Bible next to Proverbs 3 and a caption to indicate how that passage was lifting her spirits and keeping her focused on the future:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…something beautiful will come out of this, and…I will come back stronger than ever!”

Dear Lord, help us to trust You in all things.  Thank You that You make something beautiful in all things that we go through. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Russell Wilson Publicly Shares Bible Verses in Victory and in Defeat

Matthew 6:13 (ESV)
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

Super Bowl XLVIII (February 2, 2014): Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

While many fans were preparing for Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was attending an early morning church service with team chaplain Judah Smith and other luminaries including former Seahawks star running back and NFL MVP Shaun Alexander. Wilson used his Instagram account to post a picture of himself with the two men and a reference to one of the Bible verses that Smith quoted during his sermon:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Later that day, Wilson sent out another message to his Twitter followers:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

The game itself featured a contrasting matchup between Wilson, playing in just his second NFL season, and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, a future Hall of Famer looking for his second Super Bowl title.

Things did not go as expected.

Denver started out with a bad snap into the end zone that resulted in a safety and 2-0 lead for the Seahawks. From there, Wilson looked like a veteran as he led Seattle on five scoring drives throughout the game. With an interception return and kickoff return both going for touchdowns, the Seahawks scored 36 points before the Broncos could erase the zero from its side of the scoreboard.

When the final buzzer sounded, Wilson and his teammates were celebrating a lopsided 43-8 victory.

“(God) brought me a really long way,” Wilson told reporters after the game. “It's unbelievable. It's kind of surreal to be honest with you. Sitting there holding that trophy up and I’m looking up, I'm just so thankful for everything that I've been given.”

A year later, Wilson was able to put his faith to the test after losing Super Bowl XLIX in heartbreaking fashion. Down 28-24 against the New England Patriots and with seconds remaining in the game, Wilson infamously threw an interception at the goal line when most were expecting running back Marshawn Lynch to get ball.

Now on the losing side, Wilson used his Twitter account to remain positive:

“Thank You God for the opportunity. We’ll be back…I will never waiver on who He has called me to be…”

And that same day, he posted a separate note that included yet another inspirational Bible verse:

“I will love You, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“Win or lose, it’s about Him for me,” Wilson told BillyGraham.org in an interview prior to Super Bowl XLIX. “It doesn’t matter the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, just keep Him first.”

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can make it all about You.  Help us to always give You the credit and the praise. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.