A Constant reminder of His goodness

A Constant reminder of His goodness

Scripture Reference

 

Deuteronomy 8:1-11 NLT

1“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

6 “So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. 9 It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.

As human beings, there is a fragility that we carry within our existence that makes us forget easily. We tend to focus on what is next, and desire to move on to the next big thing. This human nature may cause us to miss important moments in our lives, when God shows Himself strong and mighty.

It is the desire of God to see us prosperous. God wants us to multiply and grow in the blessings He has bestowed upon us as we willingly obeying Him. The Lord continues to reveal Himself to us through everything we do or experience.

Remove the notion or mentality that God desires to see you suffering or going around and around in cycles. He is not rejoicing over your bondage and hardship, but has provided a way of escape through His word and by the willful power of your obedience.

Your mind can begin to play tricks and games on you, to make you think that you are so minute in the presence of God, and your destiny is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That is not true. The Lord desires His provision, blessings and sustenance to outlive you, and touch the next generations.

Simply said, it is a compliment to God when you are living your best life. That is what He desires for you. Remind yourself today, you are blessed, things are working out for your good, and obeying God wholeheartedly is a heritage that will yield more profits to you than losses.

Prayer

Dear Father,

I would like to take this time to thank you, for the blessings you have bestowed upon my life over the years. Sometimes I lose focus and wallow in self-pity because I am constantly reviewing what I do not have, or criticizing myself for what I have not yet done. I receive the reminder that I have the power to change my life, by the power of obedience, free will, trusting, and believing your word.

I desire to have a legacy that testifies to your faithfulness in my life. Let me desire the blessed life, and be willing and obedient to follow the pathway of righteousness. This is my heart’s desire, beginning today.

In Jesus Name,

 

Amen

Why the future of the world’s largest religion is female – and African

Why the future of the world’s largest religion is female – and African

Nigerian women greet each other at St. Charles Catholic Church in Ngurore, Nigeria, on Feb. 17, 2019. AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
Gina Zurlo, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

At the start of 2019, Bill and Melinda Gates released a list of facts that had surprised them the previous year. Number four on their list: “Data can be sexist.”

“There are huge gaps in the global data about women and girls,” they explained.

My interest was piqued – not only as a demographer, but as a woman and mother of girls.

I research women in global Christianity and am frequently asked what percentage of the religion is female. The short answer is 52%. But the long answer is more complicated – women make up a much more substantial part of Christianity than that number makes it seem.

The goal of my research is to put the spotlight on Christian women’s contributions to church and society and fill in gaps in our data. Headlines about religion may be focused on the words and actions of Western male leaders, but the reality of the worldwide church is quite different. More and more Christians live outside Europe and North America, especially in Africa – and women are central to that story.

Measuring faith

Social scientists have shown for decades that women are more religious than men by a variety of measures – everything from frequency of private prayer to worship service attendance. Christianity, the world’s largest religion, is no exception. Data from the Pew Research Center show that, compared to Christian men, Christian women are more likely to attend weekly church services (53% versus 46%), pray daily (61% versus 51%), and say religion is important in their lives (68% versus 61%).

It’s not a new trend. In the Gospels, women were the last at the foot of Jesus’s cross, the first at his tomb. Research has shown they were critical to the growth of the early church, being more likely to convert to Christianity than men, and most of the early Christian communities were majority female. Throughout history, women were exemplars of the faith as mystics and martyrs, royal women converting their husbands and supporting convents, and founders of denominations and churches that are now all over the world. Women make up the majority of Christians today.

What researchers don’t have is comprehensive data on women’s activities in churches, their influence, their leadership or their service. Nor are there comprehensive analyses of Christians’ attitudes around the world about women’s and men’s roles in churches.

“Women, according to an old saying in the Black church, are the backbone of the church,” notes religion and gender scholar Ann Braude. “The double meaning of this saying is that while the churches would collapse without women, their place is in the background,” behind male leaders.

But there’s not much actual data, and without good data, it’s harder to make good decisions.

Two women wearing head coverings pray inside a church.
Christian women pray during a Christmas Mass in Our Lady of Fatima Church in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2021. AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

At the center of the story

My current research is illustrating that women are the majority of the church nearly everywhere in the world, and that its future is poised to be shaped by African women, in particular.

Christianity continues its demographic shift to the global south. In 1900, 18% of the world’s Christians lived in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania, according to my research. Today that figure is 67%, and by 2050, it is projected to be 77%. Africa is home to 27% of the world’s Christians, the largest share in the world, and by 2050, that figure will likely be 39%. For comparison, the United States and Canada were home to just 11% of all Christians in the world in 2020 and will likely drop to 8% by 2050. Furthermore, the median age of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is just 19.

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One of the most common refrains about the church in Africa is that it is majority female. “The church in Africa has a feminine face and owes much of its tremendous growth to the agency of women,” writes Kenyan theologian Philomena Mwaura.

Or as a Nigerian Anglican bishop recently told me, “If anyone tells you a church in Nigeria is majority male, he’s lying.”

It’s clear that women have been a crucial part of Christianity’s seismic shift south. For example, consider Catholic sisters, who outnumber priests and religious brothers in Africa – and on every continent, in fact. Mothers’ Union, an Anglican nonprofit that aims to support marriages and families, has 30 branches in Africa, including at least 60,000 members in Nigeria alone. In Congo, women have advocated for peacebuilding, including through groups like the National Federation of Protestant Women. Next door, in the Republic of the Congo, Catholic sisters were at the forefront of providing shelter, education and aid in postwar recovery efforts.

Yet here, too, more precise data about African women’s contributions and religious identities is lacking. And beyond quantitative data, African women’s narratives have often been ignored, to the detriment of public understanding. As African theologians Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Rachel Angogo Kanyoro have stated, “African women theologians have come to realize that as long as men and foreign researchers remain the authorities on culture, rituals, and religion, African women will continue to be spoken of as if they were dead.”

Far from dead, African women live at the center of the story – and will continue to do so as healers, evangelists, mothers and the heartbeat of their churches.

The Conversation

Gina Zurlo, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Prayers work

Prayers work

Scripture Reference

8:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied to Job:

2 “How long will you go on like this?
You sound like a blustering wind.
3 Does God twist justice?
Does the Almighty twist what is right?
4 Your children must have sinned against him,
so their punishment was well deserved.
5 But if you pray to God
and seek the favor of the Almighty,
6 and if you are pure and live with integrity,
he will surely rise up and restore your happy home.
7 And though you started with little,
you will end with much.

8 “Just ask the previous generation.
Pay attention to the experience of our ancestors.
9 For we were born but yesterday and know nothing.
Our days on earth are as fleeting as a shadow.
10 But those who came before us will teach you.
They will teach you the wisdom of old.

20 “But look, God will not reject a person of integrity,
nor will he lend a hand to the wicked.
21 He will once again fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the home of the wicked will be destroyed.”

In the journey of life, there are moments that will come where life will be difficult. Things will not make sense. It could be a hardship season for you. When those seasons come, it is easy to resort back to a place of fear, second guessing our faith, and wondering if God is really alive.

This scripture Job 8:5-8 reveals the power of prayer while seeking God in those difficult life seasons. What does seeking God look like? How do you seek God in a time of trouble?

  1. Do not be afraid to ask Him if you need help. A lot of times, there is a sense of guilt or fear wondering whether God can handle your situation. But the reality is seeking Him reveals He cares and acknowledges the effort you make
  2. Praying and asking for wisdom until you get the assurance that God has heard you. He will provide what you need. Assurance may not automatically come to you in prayer. However, as you seek Him regarding the situation, His peace will manifest that assures you He hears and will attend to you
  3. Be alert as you pray for the instructions that will accompany the prayers. God may impress on you to forgive an offense, or do something that may not seem relevant to what you are inquiring about in prayer, but obey even if it does not make sense to you in the moment.

You should never judge yourself in your expression of pleading with God in prayer. The posture of pleading should not be misconstrued with begging. If you have been begging God to answer your prayers, your viewpoint of Him may be one of trying to convince Him you are worthy of a breakthrough or an answer. Pleading with God is making an earnest appeal to Him from a posture of faith. Your faith in God’s power and sovereignty pushes you to appeal to Him for your breakthrough.

Pleading often pulls from an established testimony with God. You have seen His power and miraculous grace and you are confident in what He is able to do.

This scripture also reveals the power of knowing the history of God’s work in the world. Finding out what God has done from previous generations, allows us to see the continuous integrity of God’s ability to provide and take care of His own. During a time of need, you may pull on the God of your parents or grand-parents or someone who is dear to you, who has walked with the grace and power of God in such a way that it convinced you of His existence. When you know this beautiful history, it can be used to affirm your faith in the moments you need prayers answered.

I have learned that in this life, there will be trials and tribulations that you will go through. Prayer will make it possible for you to live life with hope. When you get to those seasons, may you be reminded that prayer works, a history with God is powerful, and your faith can give you the confidence to make an appeal for what you need from Him.

He is able to restore you to a prosperous state. That is something you should always desire.

 

Prayer

Dear Father,

I thank you today, for those who came before me, who consistently served you and established a history of faithfulness with you. I know I am an answered prayer for someone else. As I pray, help me to build a history with you, that others will be inspired by, that will make them believers in your Presence. I release any form of guilt that makes me feel afraid to appeal to you. By faith I believe, as I am seeking you earnestly, you will restore me to my prosperous state.

In Jesus Name

Amen

Devotional: The favor that pushes purpose to fruition

Devotional: The favor that pushes purpose to fruition

Key Scripture

“This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, NLT)

Full Scripture Ezra 7:1-26

 

There are moments in everyone’s life when the question of purpose will come up. Discovering, pursuing, and fulfilling purpose is one of the greatest achievements that can happen to a human life.

When you understand and know your purpose, it becomes easy to know what direction you need to take to manifest and walk in it.

In Ezra 7, we are introduced to Ezra who had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. Ezra was a teacher, and he loved teaching. He found his purpose in teaching and learning the law, and sharing that with others.

His commitment to this purpose brought such favor from God which caused King Artaxerxes to write a letter of his approval of him and funded him adequately as he went to Jerusalem.

A lot of times we stress out and worry about where our provision will come from when in reality, the provision is always connected to purpose. It is wise to set time, energy, and focus in discovering and committing ourselves to what we have been destined to do in this life.

Remember:

  1. You have a specific reason for being alive, God has a destiny for you
  2. Your purpose will not be difficult for you because purpose motivates. You are graced for it
  3. Discovering your purpose does not mean you will have all the answers, however, you will sense a strength and confidence to pursue it even if you are not sure how it will end
  4. God will place confirmation and signs on your path to encourage you that you are on the right track. This will come through unexpected provision, favor for open doors, kindness from people with influence who can bless you to fulfill your destiny. Make sure you stay alert and avoid sabotaging yourself through fear or pride

 

Ezra was a teacher, that was his purpose and he committed to it. God blessed him because he was walking in his purpose. The favor that was bestowed upon him allowed that purpose to come to fruition by touching so many lives by his obedience to his call.

Do not give up on your purpose, do not look down on it. Even if other people do not understand it, your purpose is worth pursuing. You are an answered prayer. Someone is waiting for you to manifest your purpose.

 

 

Prayer

Dear God,

This week, reveal to me my purpose. Remind me why I am here. Open my eyes to see clearly what I need to do to fulfill my destiny. Grace me with the courage to receive your favor and provision to pursue my purpose without fear. Let me be a testimony like Ezra by committing to the reason you have created me. I know you will reveal to me and guide me because I desire to leave a great legacy.

 

In Jesus Name

Amen

UrbanFaith is Expanding!

UrbanFaith is Expanding!

Hear the Word you need when you want it.  

UrbanFaith, published by UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.), has teamed up with HarperCollins Christian Publishing to launch UrbanFaithStudy.com, a subscription-based digital platform with an expanding library of more than 100 video sermons and studies from well-known African American Christian voices. We know it’s hard for young adults to find churches they feel welcomed in and even harder to find leaders they can trust to teach the Word in a way they can hear and understand it. UrbanFaithStudy.com provides the empowering teaching you want that stays faithful while being relevant. 

“I am pleased to see this robust and unique platform featuring strong voices and transformative messages by African American pastors and authors,” remarked Jeff Wright, CEO of UMI. “I know it will be a blessing to many people.”

UrbanFaithStudy.com offers culturally relevant, topical sermons delivered by pastors such as Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III; Dr. Dominique Robinson; and husband and wife team Pastor Gabby Cudjoe-Wilkes and Pastor Andrew Wilkes. Bishop Walker is the International Presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and pastor of the historic 30,000-member Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. Dr. Robinson is a religious scholar, theological educator, preacher, writer, activist, and advocate who serves as an assistant professor of preaching at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX. HBCU and Ivy League-educated pastors Gabby Cudjoe-Wilkes and Andrew Wilkes co-founded the Double Love Experience Church in Brooklyn, NY, a growing congregation of believers committed to the liberating, love-powered ministry of Jesus. 

“What an extraordinary opportunity to house digital archives of hope & possibility in the era of a global pandemic, racial reckoning & resilience. It is my prayer that the sermons we offer will help those who hear them know that God has not left them. Even in these times. To share this in partnership with two brands that curate accessible & timely content: UMI & HarperCollins [Christian] is a dream.” – -Pastor Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes

UrbanFaithStudy.com will also launch book study curricula for believers looking for deeper engagement and group study content that engages the church with culturally relevant topics. These curricula are by well-known African American voices, including New York Times bestselling author Jemar Tisby; beloved author and speaker Crystal Evans Hurst; Grammy Award-winning artist Lecrae; and Bible teacher, pastor, and author, Jada Anae Edwards.  

“When teaming up with UMI more than a year ago, we knew creating a video platform to host engaging, life-changing biblical content would showcase both organizations’ ability to reach new audiences,” said Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. “The church is evolving, becoming more dependent on technology to deliver sermons, Bible studies, and other curricula. When designing UrbanFaithStudy.com, we used our strengths to achieve more than we could if we had each approached the project separately.” 

UrbanFaithStudy.com will serve many consumers, including church congregations, divinity students, young preachers, and individuals seeking to understand how faith informs cultural engagement. The monthly subscription is $5.95 for individuals and $19.95 for churches. To subscribe, visit UrbanFaithStudy.com.