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Southern Missionary Baptist  Church
Southern Missionary Baptist  Church
A Spirit Led And Bible Based Church
  • Our Church

    Southern Missionary Baptist Church
    921 Bissell St., P.O. Box 38 Map
    Madison, IL 62060
    Phone: 618-877-1305, Fax:618-688-4351, Pastor's Home Ph. 618-235-8299

    · Southern Missionary Baptist Church
    · Statement of Beliefs
    · Church History

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    Sunday School: 9:00 a.m.

    Sunday Worship : 10:45 a.m.

    Children's Church Is Open During Sunday Worship

    Prayer Meeting:  Tuesday 7:00 p.m.

    Bible Study: Tuesday 7:00 p.m.








    10:30 A.M. Central Time


    7:00 PM Central Time on Facebook

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    Simply go to our Pastor's Facebook page.





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    We would like to welcome you to the Southern Missionary Baptist Church of Madison, Illinois.  We are a church with a warm heart and where no one is considered a stranger.  We believe in following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who exemplified love for all.  We believe in being led by the Holy Spirit in all that we do, praising God and giving Him the glory for His grace and mercy.  Here, at Southern, you will be greeted with open arms and you are invited to praise God with us.  Our Sunday and Bible Study is designed for all ages, with excellent teachers who exited about teaching and ready to answer your questions.  We have a mandate to win souls to Christ.  So if you're looking for a Spirit Led and Bible Based Church, come visit us.


    Pastor Sherrell and First Lady Mauristine Byrd



  • 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14


    2021 Theme: "Going Deeper In Christ!"





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      July 21, 2021

      Dear Members of Southern,


      "THANK YOU!"

      I want to thank all of you for your continued support to the church.  You have continued to follow all guidelines in order to keep your Church Family safe and that takes great sacrifice. I know that it has been hard to reframe from hugging and shaking hands, but that will all return one day.  "Let patience have her perfect works." I also want to thank Sis. Tammy Kemp and Deacon Nicholas Wright for their work in our Media Ministry and the songs that they have played over the speakers during service.  I'm looking to have some kind of "Live Music" in the near future, using a small assembly of singers.  As you are aware, Sunday School have not restarted yet. We will focus on our Sunday Worship at this time.  Due to the new Corona Virus Delta Variant, please remember to wear your mask properly, covering your nose to your chin.  Keep hands sanitized and allow th ushers to seat you. 

      Bible Study will continue on Facebook for the remainder of the year.

      Our Sunday School lesson will continue to be available on our website.

      I'm still making hospital visits and will be with our Families during their loved ones surgeries, whenever possible.








      Sunday Worship will also continue on Facebook.  This will be beneficial to those members who are "Home Bound".

      Church van will not be used at this time.

      Again, thank yo for your patience and cooperation. Things will get better!  Now is the time to Renew, Refresh and Revive!

      Pastor Sherrell L. Byrd, Jr.


      For those who wish to send their Offerings and Tithes, You may mail them to Deacon Terryl Curry, Sr. or Sis. Mary Trice.  Or you may mail them to the church address: Southern Baptist Church, 921 Bissell St. P.O. Box 38, Madison, IL 62020.  Or use our CashApp: $9446Church.


      Yours In Christ,

      Pastor Sherrell L. Byrd, Jr.


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      Numerous polls over the years have shown that anywhere from one-third to almost one-half of Americans claim to be born again Christians. But before we celebrate, we should also note that the same polls indicate that there is no appreciable difference between the way that professing born again Christians live and how the rest of the culture lives.

      Christians, including Christian leaders, have an atrocious rate of sexual immorality, whether viewing pornography on the Internet or actually engaging in sexual sin . Evangelical Christians actually have a slightly higher divorce rate than the rest of the American population! We watch the same amount and the same content of filthy TV shows and movies as the population at large.

      One researcher found that half of baby boomers claiming to be born again say that religions other than Christianity are equally good and true. One-third of that group believes in reincarnation and astrology. Nearly half support abortion rights (Wade Clark Roof, Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion, reported in “The Watchman Expositor,” vol. 18, # 1, 2001, p. 22).

      In light of these alarming conditions, Paul’s words scream at us (4:17, my translation): “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk….” This refers to what he is about to say. Therefore goes back to his exhortation (4:1) to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” From 4:4-16, he developed how the worthy walk pertains to church unity and maturity.

      Now, he turns to how the worthy walk affects personal holiness. Affirm means to testify as in court, when you summon a witness. It shows that Paul isn’t giving some helpful hints that you may want to try if you feel like it. He is giving the Lord’s commandments for how His people must live. Together with the Lord should be translated, in the Lord. It points to Paul’s source of authority—the Lord Himself—and to the sphere in which both he and his readers now live. By God’s mercy, they have been rescued from this present evil age and now live as new creatures in Christ.

      Paul paints this graphic portrait of how unbelievers live, which is how the Ephesians had lived before they met Christ. It is a shorter version of a similar picture in Romans 1:18-32. Paul is showing that when you become a Christian, there must be a distinct break from the past. People should be able to see clearly the difference in your life, so that they wonder, “What happened?” His message is quite simple:

      Believers must not live as unbelievers live.

      In verse 17 Paul makes a general statement about how unbelievers live, “in the futility of their mind.” In verse 18, he shows why they live this way. It is not easy to chart the relationship of the four clauses in verse 18 (commentators differ). But the idea seems to be that the reason unbelievers live in the futility of their mind is that they are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God. The reason they are alienated from the life of God is that deep within them, they are ignorant of God. They do not know Him. The reason for this ignorance is that their hearts are hardened due to sin. Then in verse 19, he shows where this kind of futile lifestyle inevitably leads, namely, into giving themselves over to unbridled and insatiable sensuality and impurity.

      Romans 1:21 parallels our text, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” He goes on to describe their plunge into moral degradation.

      Our text reveals five ways that unbelievers live, that we must not follow. Paul describes them with the word walk. A walk is a way of life. A true Christian may fall into these behaviors on occasion, but they should not be characteristic of his lifestyle.


      1. Don’t live as unbelievers, who walk in the futility of their minds.

      Futility is the same word that is used 36 times in Ecclesiastes (LXX) translated, vanity. “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities!’ All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). It comes from a Hebrew word meaning breath or vapor. It refers to anything transitory, frail, or lacking in substance. Solomon had tried to find satisfaction through knowledge, through wealth and all that it affords, and through the pleasures of music and art and women. He had houses and lands with beautiful gardens and ponds. But none of it brought fulfillment. He observed that even if you have all of these things, you live a few years and then die. It is all futility, striving after the wind (Eccl. 2:17).

      We could picture a child chasing soap bubbles. He grabs one, but it bursts in his hand, leaving him with nothing. One early Christian writer gives examples of building houses of sand by the seashore, chasing the wind, shooting at the stars, or pursuing one’s shadow (Gregory of Nyssa, cited by R. C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Eerdmans], p. 181). None of these activities results in anything of lasting value or significance.

      Many unbelievers live for a purpose, even for noble purposes. Some aim to use their money for benevolent causes. Some want to find a cure for cancer or help others who are victims of disease. Some want to go into politics so that they can help our country be a better place. Some want to teach children so that they can have a better life. These are all good purposes that benefit society.

      But, if they do not take God and eternity into consideration, what is gained? You live a few years and help a few people and then you die. Those who are helped may benefit for a few years before they die, or they may discard all that you have labored to get for them. Or, someone else may come along and undo everything that you have accomplished. It’s all vanity or emptiness, unless it is done in light of God and eternity (1 Cor. 15:58).

      Paul says that the futility of those without God exists in the mind. He is referring to their entire inner being, personality, or soul (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light [Baker], p. 33). Paul emphasizes the mind in these verses: mind (4:17, 23); understanding, ignorance (4:18); learn (4:20); taught (4:21).

      To live in the futility of the mind is to think and live without any regard for God and eternity. It is to live for selfish gratification or fleeting pleasure, without regard to the consequences, whether in this life or in eternity. It is to live according to the world’s philosophies that leave God out. Philosophers speculate about this and that, but they don’t have solid answers for life’s problems in light of death and eternity.

      Paul is saying,

      “Don’t live that way!”

      Don’t live as if God did not exist.

      Don’t live as if Christ had not died for your sins.

      Don’t live as if there were no judgment or no heaven or no hell.

      Don’t live in the futility of your mind.

      Let me be very practical. If you want to avoid living in the futility of your mind, think often about your death. Join Jonathan Edwards, who as a young man resolved, among many other things, “to think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:xx). You may think that that is morbid, but it is a vital principle for wise living! Then, keeping the shortness of life in view, join Moses in praying (Ps. 90:12), “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” In light of standing before God and in light of what you know of His Word, how do you want to spend the fleeting years that the Lord gives you? When you look back from the end, what do you want to have accomplished in light of eternity?

      Then, in light of these godly purposes, prayerfully think through and write down some goals that will move you in that direction this week. These will vary depending on where you’re at right now. Maybe establishing a regular time alone with God in the Word and in prayer is where you need to start. If some besetting sin trips you up, devise a practical, biblically based plan to overcome that sin. Review and revise these goals from time to time. Don’t just drift through life as unbelievers do, living for the next momentary pleasure. Don’t live in the futility of your mind. Live with godly purpose in light of eternity.


      2. Don’t live as unbelievers, who walk in the darkness of their understanding.

      This idea is similar to that of living in the futility of their mind, but it goes further in explaining why they live that way: their understanding is darkened. When man sinned, it plunged the human race into mental darkness and alienation from God. People’s minds were cut off from knowing God. They became incapable of reasoning through things from God’s perspective. They were not able to understand spiritual truth (John 8:43-47). As Paul wrote (2 Cor. 4:4), “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Or (1 Cor. 2:14), “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Or, as we saw (Rom. 1:21), “their foolish hearts were darkened.” When sin came into this world, the lights went out spiritually.

      Note. Even though we inherited this spiritual darkness from Adam, we are responsible for it. We can’t blame Adam! We can’t blame God, who decreed that Adam’s sin would be imputed to the entire human race. If you say, “That’s not fair,” you are sinning with incredible arrogance to accuse the Sovereign of the universe of being unfair! And, the fact is, if you had been in the garden instead of Adam, you would have done the same thing that he did. So, each person is responsible for his own spiritual darkness.

      Not only are unbelievers darkened in their understanding, but also they love it!

      Jesus said (John 3:19-20), “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” So the biblical picture is not that sinners are crying out, “O, if only I could see!” No, they’re partying in the dark and don’t want the light to expose their sin.

      Come on now Southern!  Some of us are still partying in the dark!

      Paul says, “Don’t live that way! Don’t walk around with a darkened understanding!” To put it positively (1 John 1:7), “walk in the Light, as He Himself is in the Light.” Again, Paul is referring to the understanding, to how you think.

      As a Christian, you need to be renewed and transformed in your mind (Eph. 4:23Rom. 12:2) through God’s Word. Sound doctrine about God, man, sin, salvation, and every area of life is the foundation for spiritual understanding and light. Become a biblical thinker about every issue that you face, whether how to relate to others, how to manage your time and money, or how to act on the job.


      3. Don’t live as unbelievers, who walk in alienation from the life of God.

      Being “excluded from the life of God” further explains why unbelievers walk in the futility of their minds. They are dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1). They lack new life from God. Becoming a Christian is not a matter of eliminating sinful behavior and replacing it with moral behavior, although that will follow. Becoming a Christian is a matter of receiving new life from God. As Jesus said (John 3:16), whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

      In the 18th century, John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, along with some others, formed a club at Oxford called “The Holy Club.” Through self-denial, discipline, good works, and reading and studying their Greek New Testaments and other books, these young men sought to be holy. But it all stemmed from human effort. None of these young men were born again.

      Then, George Whitefield read a little book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, written in the previous century by a young Scotsman, Henry Scougal. Whitefield said that by that book, “God showed me that I must be born again, or be damned! I learned that a man may go to church, say his prayers, receive the sacrament, and yet not be a Christian. How did my heart rise and shudder, like a poor man that is afraid to look into his account-books, lest he should find himself a bankrupt.” (Cited in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield [Cornerstone Books], 1:73.) Whitefield thought of throwing that book away, but instead he searched it more and asked God to make him a real Christian. He came to realize that being a true Christian involves “a union of the soul with God, and Christ formed within us” (ibid.). It was the first time that he realized that he must become a new creature.

      After a lot more effort and agony of soul, he finally came to reject all self-trust and cast himself on the mercy of God through Christ. He said, “God was pleased to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold of His dear Son by a living faith, and by giving me the Spirit of adoption, to seal me even to the day of everlasting redemption” (ibid., p. 77). After that, God used George Whitefield’s preaching to bring many from empty religion to new life in Jesus Christ. Paul is saying to us, “Don’t live as unbelievers do, being excluded from the life of God.” Make sure that you have eternal life through genuine faith in Jesus Christ!


      4. Don’t live as unbelievers, who walk in spiritual ignorance due to hard hearts.

      The phrase, “because of the ignorance that is in them,” explains why unbelievers are alienated from the life of God. They do not know God personally. Ignorance translates the Greek word from which we get our word, agnostic. It means to be without knowledge. It is ironic that agnostics often boast of their great knowledge, as if it were their knowledge that led them to their “enlightened” state of not knowing if there is a God! But, Paul traces their spiritual ignorance to something else, namely, to “the hardness of their heart.” (The KJV wrongly translates it, “blindness,” but the word means, “hardness,” as in a stone.) The person who is hard of heart ignores God and His commands. He refuses to bow before God as the sovereign Lord. Hardness of heart results in not knowing God. That spiritual ignorance due to sin is why unbelievers are cut off from the very life of God.

      This means that people are not agnostics because they have intellectual problems with the Bible. Rather, they are agnostics because of moral rebellion against God. They want to live as they please, not as God commands. In order to justify and excuse their sinful lifestyle, they have to get rid of God.

      So, they claim that they have intellectual problems with the existence of God. They may use evolution or the problem of evil and suffering in the world, or whatever. But get through the smokescreen and behind it you will find sin. They do not want to acknowledge the existence of God because they know that they are in big trouble if He exists!

      When you’re talking with such a person and he throws at you some intellectual objection to the gospel, ask him, “Are you saying that if I can give you a reasonable answer to that problem, you would follow Jesus Christ as Lord?” Invariably, he will say, “Well, no, there are a lot more problems.” But keep pushing him and the real problem will become evident: he does not want to submit to Jesus as Lord. He loves his sin!

      Paul says, “Don’t live that way!” As a believer, be seeking daily to know the living God in a more intimate way. Submit every area of your life to Him. Don’t let sin harden your heart and produce doubts and spiritual ignorance. Finally,


      5. Don’t live as unbelievers, who walk in callused sensuality and insatiable moral impurity.

      Verse 19 describes the final result of this downward spiral into sin. To become callous means to cease to feel pain; thus, spiritually, it is to “lose the capacity to feel shame or embarrassment” (Peter O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 322). The first time a person commits a sin, he thinks, “I’ll just do it this once.” But, after he does it, his conscience bothers him. He feels guilty. But, the next time, it’s a bit easier. He rationalizes it by thinking, “Well, others do worse!” Each time, it becomes easier to sin as his conscience develops a spiritual callus. Finally, he gives himself over to sin with abandon. He has no shame about it. In fact, he goes on TV talk shows to boast about it!

      In Romans 1:24, 26, 28, there is the repeated frightening phrase, “God gave them over.” But here, they “have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” It is describing the same thing from the sinner’s perspective. Sensuality refers to a person who casts off all restraint and has no regard even for public decency. It is to be openly, shamelessly in violation of God’s moral standards. In this context, impurity with greediness probably refers to an insatiable appetite for sexual sin. For the practice of has the nuance of making an occupation out of impurity! Pursuing sensuality and greed feeds on itself, because what once was new, exciting, and pleasurable soon becomes boring and unfulfilling. So the sinner has to seek new depths of perversion. Like using drugs, giving yourself over to sensuality and impurity becomes enslaving.

      Paul says, “Don’t live like that!” Jesus said that we must cut off such sin as we would cut off our hand or pluck out our eye (Matt. 5:29-30). Keep your conscience tender towards God! Do not give yourself over to sin. It never satisfies and it always enslaves!



      1.   Ask Jesus into your life if you haven't already. If you're just learning about Christianity, you'll need to become a follower of Christ before you can live a good Christian life. To do this, pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you for any sins you've committed in your life. Ask him to come into your heart to help you turn away from those sins, and devote yourself to following him.[1]

      • In John 14:6, Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This means the only way to have a relationship with God is to be a follower of Jesus.
      • While each person's prayer is personal, it might go something like this: "Dear Lord, I know I haven't always been perfect. Please forgive me for all the times I've sinned, like when I was impatient or told a lie. I want to become your follower so I can be more like you. Please guide me and help me to become a better person. Amen."



      Confess your sins to God. Although the Bible says you must confess your sins in order to become a follower of Jesus, this isn't the end of the story. As a human, you're going to make mistakes. If you do something that you know was wrong, pray to God to forgive you, and ask Him to help you overcome that sin in the future.[2]
      • The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 that God will be merciful: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."


      Strengthen your bond with God by praying constantly. Once you've asked God into your life, try to make it a habit to communicate with God about everything. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Bible says to "Pray without ceasing." Thank God for all of the blessings in your life, praise Him for His goodness, ask for His guidance as you make decisions, and turn to Him for comfort in times of need.[3]
      • In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus offered up a model prayer that you can use as an example of how to talk to God. Also known as the Lord's Prayer, it says: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen."
      • For another example of how to pray, read the Psalms, which is a Biblical book full of various prayers to God.



      Read your Bible each day. Prayer is a way for you to communicate with God, but if you want to hear what He has to say, you need to make time to study Scripture. You might read the Bible from start to finish, you could pick a book to study for a while, or you can read guided devotionals for insight into what different verses might mean.[4]
      • To have a close relationship with Jesus, you have to study his words. In John 6:63, Jesus says: "The words I have spoken to you are my spirit and they are life."



      Join a group of like-minded followers for fellowship and worship. If you want to strengthen your relationship in Christ, it's a good idea to join a church where God's word is being taught. Not only will you receive relevant teachings from church leaders, but you'll find other believers you can talk to and a space where you can worship freely.[5]
      • You may also find missions, Bible study groups, or other fun activities that will enrich your life.
      • In Hebrews 10:24-25, the Bible says that when believers meet together, you can uplift each other: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."




      Some of you may be thinking, “Paul is being kind of extreme here. I know many unbelievers who don’t fit his dire description in these verses. They are decent, moral people. They are faithful in their marriages. They love their children. They are responsible to work and pay their bills. They’re good neighbors. So, how does what Paul says here apply to them?”

      Consider two things. First, in His grace, God restrains people from being as bad as they possibly could be. If God let all sinners go, the human race would have self-destructed centuries ago. The doctrine of “total depravity” does not mean that people are as bad as they can be. Rather, it means that sin has tainted every part of our being. It corrupts our minds, our emotions, our will, and our bodies. But because of His grace, God restrains the evil of the fallen human heart, so that unbelievers may be kind, loving, and responsible people.

      Second, God looks not only on the outward behavior, but also on the heart. God’s assessment when He looked on the wickedness of the human race just before the flood was (Gen. 6:5), “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” After the flood, God’s assessment did not change. He said (Gen. 8:21), “for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

      If God were to let any one of us go, indwelling sin would impel us toward all manner of evil and corruption. We should not look on someone who fits the description of verse 19 and say, “How can he do that?” Rather, we should look at verse 19 and say, “There but for the grace of God, am I!” So, even as believers, we must get into the habit of instantly judging our own sin on the heart level. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind through God’s Word and you will not live as unbelievers live.

      Application Questions

      1. How would you counsel a person who claimed to be born again and yet was living as verse 19 describes?
      2. How should a believer prioritize which biblical goals to pursue when there are so many?
      3. I said that people are not agnostics due to intellectual problems, but due to moral problems. What implications does this have for witnessing?
      4. How can a believer keep a tender conscience? Is it possible to have an overly sensitive conscience? Where’s the balance?

      Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2008, All Rights Reserved.


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    • Prayer List and Birthdays




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      Pray for those who are on our prayer list. SICK/SHUT



      Etta Banks

      Melvin Bell

      Benson Bradley

      ​Daphne Buckels

      Deacon George Buckels

      Rhonda Fletcher

      Madeline Foster

      Maggie Garrett

      Brenda Isom

      Ricky Johnson
      Joyce King
      Ed Petty
      Deloyd Prothro
      Mary Pryor
      Allease Rich
      Yvonne Rhodes
      Alice Ward
      Arietta Walker
      Ollie Walker
      Eleanor Wiggins
      Ann Wilson



       A'ZAIAH ROBINSON...........................................OCTOBER 05

       MARIE CURRY....................................................OCTOBER 14

       YVONNE BELL....................................................OCTOBER 15

       GLADYS HARRIS................................................OCTOBER 15

       MARY TRICE......................................................OCTOBER 19

       MICHELLE JACKSON..........................................OCTOBER 25

      EDGAR BUCKELS................................................OCTOBER 25





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      Each Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. on Facebook.  Central Time. Just go to the Pastor's Facebook page


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      About Faith Topics New Donate


      What is the importance of praising God?

      Praising God is a normal response to what He has done for us and who He is. The book of Psalms, the largest book in the Bible with 150 individual psalms, is full of praise to God. In fact, Psalm 150, the last psalm in the book, concludes with the injunction, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 150:6Psalm 92 begins with the statement, "It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High", saying that it is good to praise.

      If we want reasons to praise God, we don't have far to look. First, God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for our sins so that we could enjoy being in the presence of God forever. We cannot pay for our sins ourselves, so God paid for them. In addition to Jesus' sacrifice for us, we can look at the many attributes of God. God is all-powerful (Matthew 19:26), all-knowing (1 John 3:20), greater than anyone else (Colossians 1:18), love itself (1 John 4:8), merciful (Psalm 86:15), faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9), wiser than any other (Romans 16:27), and even more. A list of God's attributes would be as long as the Bible itself. Looking at these attributes makes it plain that He deserves our praise.

      An example of the importance of us praising God is Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:28–44). When the crowds of people were praising Jesus, some of the religious leaders in the crowd asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples because of their praise (Luke 19:39). Jesus' response, in verse 40 was, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Praising God is so important that if people don't praise Him, creation would praise Him. Eventually, everyone will praise Him. Philippians 2:10 says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. This is not restricted to those who love Him—it says everyone will bow.

      Since we all will eventually praise God, it is reasonable that we acknowledge His greatness now while we are not compelled to praise Him. Praising Him is His due, and we, as Christians, have the chance to praise Him now.

      Related Truth:

      How should I worship God?

      Why does God demand our worship?

      How can we bless God? What does it mean to bless God?

      How can I come to really know God?

      Why does obedience to God matter?
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      5 Qualities You Need to Be a Great Encourager

      As I walked up, I could see she was fighting back tears. A well of emotion rising up after hearing a message of encouragement. “I can’t remember the last time I felt truly encouraged—thank you,” she said.  She wasn’t alone—not today or any day.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our chief want in life is to find someone who will make us do what we can.” Life is breathed into the “can” we can do by the right person, with the right word, at the right moment, delivering an essential truth in a loving and gracious way.

      Encouragement breathes life into our souls.

      Life has a way of getting us to settle into what I like to call the “I am” zone (this is who and what I am). A place where daily routine numbs us of our need to give and receive encouragement. After speaking on Sunday, I received an email that sums this up well.

      “Jim - - I left the 11:00 service with several people on my mind, and a sense that I have not done enough (or in some cases, anything) to be an encourager to them. Thank you for a very thought-provoking sermon!

      Encouragement can change the course and trajectory of our lives.

      Everyone can be a great encourager by developing and nurturing five qualities.

      #1—A Genuine Heart for People

      Encouragers demonstrate a real and loving concern for people. They are keenly aware of when changing conditions and circumstances ignite fear, break hearts and rob you of your passion. Rick Warren says, “The first job of leadership is to love people.” The condition of your heart is a measure of your willingness and capacity to encourage.

      [shareable]“Real encouragement comes from the heart!”[/shareable]

      #2—An Empathetic Ear

      Encouragers actively listen with empathy. Meaningful encouragement is grounded in understanding—being able to accurately interpret what other people are saying. Great encouragers consistently seek to understand people. They are as comfortable with your fears and failures as they are with your hopes and dreams.

      #3—An Eye for Potential

      Encouragers see people as storehouses of untapped potential because they don’t see you where you are, but have a vision of where you can go. By looking at people as a work-in-progress they provide coaching, feedback and mentoring that enables the discovery and development of your unique gifts and talents.

      #4—A Consistent Source of Hope

      Encouragers see circumstances and conditions as changeable. They are prayerful problem-solvers and help you create solutions and pursue positive change. They know that resistance and failure are the inevitable companions of lofty goals and dreams and consistently deliver words of hope that support your race to the finish line.

      #5—Setting a Positive and Inspiring Example

      In every role of their life they are consistently the same because they are comfortable mixing with people from every area of their life because they are the same publicly, privately and personally. Great encouragers become pictures of humility, authenticity, compassion and action.

      Every important race in life will bring us face-to-face with adversity, resistance and challenges. They gang up with the hope of knocking you out of the race. While encouragement does not guarantee you immediate relief or victory it serves to push you towards creating a pattern of increasing effectiveness and impact.

      Everyone needs some help to nurture and develop these qualities.



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      This page does not provide medical advice.


      Addiction Statistics In The United States 2021

      Substance abuse and addiction affect the lives of millions of individuals and families in the United States. Data from federal agencies shows concerning rates of drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents and adults in 2021.

      2021 US Substance Abuse Statistics

      Each year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health collects information on drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and addiction among people aged 12 and older in the United States.

      In 2019, about 20 million people in the United States had a substance use disorder in the past year, according to the most recent data report. Data for 2020 has not yet been released.

      Additional survey data during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has revealed higher reported rates of drinking and drug use among adults, as well as alarming spikes in fatal drug overdoses.

      What Is Substance Abuse?

      Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse or alcohol abuse, refers to a chronic pattern of frequent or excessive substance use in a way that is harmful to health and well-being.

      Examples of this include:

      • drinking excessively very often
      • taking drugs without a prescription
      • use of illicit drugs
      • taking drugs for reasons other than prescribed
      • taking higher doses than prescribed
      • taking drugs in ways other than prescribed (e.g. snorting, injecting, smoking)

      What Is Addiction?

      Addiction is a chronic but treatable disorder characterized by a compulsive need to use drugs or drink alcohol despite negative consequences. This can be physical and psychological.

      Addiction is different from physical dependence. Dependence is a physiological reliance on drugs or alcohol that can develop through chronic drug misuse or frequent, heavy drinking.

      What Are The Most Common Types Of Addiction?

      Substance misuse and addiction can refer to the misuse of a wide range of substances, some of which are classified as “legal” or “illicit”.

      Commonly misused drugs include:

      • alcohol
      • prescription painkillers
      • heroin
      • cocaine
      • methamphetamine
      • prescription drugs
      • marijuana

      Addiction can occur in people of all ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and gender identities, regardless of income or socioeconomic status. No one is immune.

      Alcohol Abuse And Addiction Rates In The United States

      Alcohol is the most commonly misused substance in the United States. While many adults drink in moderation, for some, this can become a compulsive and addictive habit.

      Rates that apply to the type of alcohol use disorder (binge drinking, problem drinking, etc):

      • About 24 percent of people over 12 report binge-drinking in the past month.
      • Nine in 10 adults who binge-drink do not have a severe alcohol use disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
      • About 55 percent of 12th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past year.
      • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5 million people had an alcohol use disorder in 2019.

      Drunk driving rates:

      • More than 10,000 people die in drunk-driving crashes each year.
      • On average, 29 people die each day in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver.

      Alcohol-related fatalities:

      • Excessive alcohol use is the cause of about 95,000 deaths per year in the United States.

      Find the right treatment program today.

      Call to be connected with a treatment specialist. 100% Free and Confidential.

       (844) 640-0175

      Prescription Opioid Abuse And Addiction Statistics In The United States

      Prescription opioid drugs like oxycodone (OxyContin) have a high potential for misuse and addiction. Commonly prescribed for pain, these drugs can be misused for their euphoric effects.

      Prescription opioid misuse rates:

      • In 2019, more than 10 million people in the U.S reported misusing prescription opioids.
      • Nearly eight million were over the age of 26.

      Opioid overdose rates:

      • About 130 people in the U.S. die each day due to fatal opioid overdose.
      • From 1999 to 2019, nearly 500,000 Americans died due to opioid overdose.

      Rates by specific populations:

      • Although previously considered most common in white, rural populations, African Americans are now 2.5 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose compared to white Americans.


      Heroin Addiction Statistics

      Heroin is an illicit opiate drug that, due to crackdowns on opioid prescribing, has become easier and cheaper to acquire than prescription opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin.

      Heroin use disorder rates:

      • About 50,000 Americans tried using heroin for the first time in 2019.
      • About 745,000 people used heroin at all in 2019, and an estimated 438,000 had a heroin use disorder.

      Rates that show the link between prescription opioid misuse and heroin addiction:

      • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
      • An estimated five percent of people with an opioid use disorder will use heroin.

      Heroin overdose death rates:

      • Overdose deaths involving heroin increased five-fold from 2010 to 2019, reaching over 15,000 in 2017 and decreasing slightly the following year.
      • From 2013 to 2019, the age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths involving heroin increased 63 percent.


      Fentanyl Addiction Statistics

      Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid drug that is sometimes prescribed for pain. It is also illegally manufactured in forms that are sold on the street, sometimes mixed with other drugs.

      Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin, and about 100 times more potent than morphine.

      Scope of fentanyl misuse:

      • Over 250,000 people in the U.S. reported misusing prescription fentanyl products in 2019.

      Fentanyl-involved overdose death rates:

      • Synthetic opioids like fentanyl (mostly illicit forms) are involved in about 70 percent of drug overdose deaths each year—translating to more than 35,000 lives lost in 2019.

      Prescription Drug Misuse And Addiction Statistics

      Prescription drugs, like illicit drugs, can be misused for their effects. Some, like opioids, are more addictive than others.

      Some of the most widely abused prescription drugs include prescription sedatives, benzodiazepines (prescribed for anxiety), and stimulants such as Adderall and Vyvanse.

      Statistics On Prescription Drug Misuse And Addiction

      Overview of prescription drug abuse rates:

      • More than one million people misused prescription stimulants, 1.5 million misused tranquilizers, and 271,000 reported misusing prescription sedatives in 2017.
      • In 2017, an estimated 18 million Americans aged 12 and older reporting misusing prescription drugs in the last year.


      Sedative/tranquilizer abuse rates:

      • About 681,000 people had a prescription sedative or tranquilizer use disorder in 2019.


      Prescription stimulant abuse rates:

      • More than 550,000 people were dependent on or addicted to prescription stimulant drugs.


      Amphetamine misuse rates:

      • The misuse of prescription drugs like Adderall is highest among young adults, who will misuse these drugs to improve focus, boost energy, and suppress appetite.


      Cocaine Abuse And Addiction Statistics

      Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is illegal to buy, possess, and sell in the United States. In recent years, the rate of deaths involving cocaine has sharply increased.

      About 1 in 10 drug-related deaths in the United States involve psychostimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, or amphetamine.

      Overview of cocaine abuse rates:

      • About 671,000 people over the age of 12 started using cocaine in 2019.
      • Five and a half million people in the U.S. reported using cocaine at some time in the past year in 2019.
      • About one million people meet the criteria for cocaine use disorder.

      Rates of cocaine-involved overdose deaths:

      • Cocaine-involved deaths increased by 26.5 percent in the June 2019-May 2020 study period from the previous year.
      • Cocaine-involved overdose deaths are driven largely by a combination of cocaine with synthetic opioids other than methadone.
      • Cocaine is involved in an estimated 1 in 5 drug overdose deaths.


      Methamphetamine Abuse And Addiction Statistics

      Methamphetamine (meth) is an illicit stimulant that is surging in use across the United States, but especially among American Indians and Alaska natives, according to recent data.

      Overview of meth abuse and addiction rates:

      • An estimated one million people in the United States are addicted to meth or dependent on meth.
      • About 184,000 people reported trying meth for the first time in 2019.

      Meth overdose rates:

      • From 2011 to 2018, deaths involving meth increased five-fold, to 10.1 deaths per 100,00 men and 4.5 deaths per 100,000 women.
      • Deaths involving methamphetamine among non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska natives more than quadrupled from 2011 to 2018.


      Teen Drug And Alcohol Addiction Statistics

      Drug and alcohol abuse is a major concern in teenagers and young adults, largely due to the implications this can have for teenagers later in life.

      Beginning drug use or drinking at an early age is associated with a higher risk for developing a substance use disorder, as well as other developmental issues and life difficulties.

      Youth who drink alcohol have a higher risk of school problems, social problems, suicide, and misuse of other substances.

      Overview of drug use disorders and illicit drug use among teens:

      • Nearly 900,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 had an illicit drug use disorder in 2019.
      • About 37 percent of all high school seniors reported using illicit drugs (including marijuana, which is legal in some states) in the last year.
      • The perceived harms of drinking and drug use decreased from 2018 to 2019. This includes perceived risks associated with binge drinking, cocaine use, and heroin use.

      Overview of alcohol use disorders and alcohol abuse in teens:

      • About 414,000 teens were dependent on or addicted to alcohol in 2019.
      • Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the U.S.


      Alcohol-involved deaths among teens:

      • Excessive drinking causes an estimated 3,500 deaths in people aged 21 and younger each year.


      Drug Overdose Death Statistics

      Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Drug overdose can occur in people addicted to drugs and those who are not.

      After the number of fatal overdoses across the U.S. fell in 2018, data from 2019 showed a sharp increase, with 2020 estimated to be the deadliest year on record.

      What recent data on drug overdoses in the United States shows:


      Rates for overdose deaths involving specific drugs:

      • Over 50 percent of psychostimulant-related overdose deaths involve opioids.
      • Synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl, are involved in over 70 percent of all drug overdose deaths.


      The scope of drug overdose fatalities in the United States long-term:

      • Nearly 841,000 people have died due to fatal drug overdose since 1999.
      • From 2010 to 2019, drug overdose deaths have more than doubled, from 38,329 deaths in 2010 to over 70,000 in 2019.


      Increased drug overdose death rates in 2020:

      • Drug overdose deaths were up 11.4 percent in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.
      • Approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths occurred between June 2019 and May 2020, with the largest increase recorded between March and May of 2020.
      • The year of 2020—termed by some as the pandemic year—is estimated to be the deadliest year for drug overdose deaths on record in the United States.

      How The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Affected Substance Abuse

      Although national data isn’t yet available on substance use, addiction, and overdose for 2020, early estimates predict alarming trends—in part influenced by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has affected substance abuse in a number of ways, including access to treatment, illicit drug access, social support, and how people are coping with pandemic stress.


      Highlights of COVID-19 and substance abuse:

      • More than 40 states across the U.S. have reported increases in opioid-related deaths over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Emergency department (ED) overdose visits in the U.S. increased up to 45 percent during the pandemic, despite a reduction in total visits to EDs.
      • In a CDC survey conducted in June, about 13 percent of adult respondents reported using drugs or alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress.
      • Alcohol sales in stores were up 54 percent in March of 2020 compared to the same time the previous year, according to Nielsen.
      • Provisional data from the CDC predicts that over 88,000 drug overdose deaths occurred between July 2019 and August 2020.
      • Tracking substance use through household and school surveys has been complicated by the pandemic, making it difficult to identify the full scope of the problem.
      • Isolation during the pandemic is considered one of the primary contributors to upticks in increased drug use, alcohol use, and relapse.
      • Among over 1,000 people with substance use disorders surveyed in June 2020, more than 1 in 3 said they had experienced a disruption in accessing treatment or recovery support.


      How Many People Seek Addiction Treatment?

      While many people struggle with substance abuse, the vast majority of those who need treatment aren’t receiving it. And during the pandemic, the demand and need for treatment have increased.

      According to some estimates, only 1 in 10 people who have a substance use disorder receives treatment. And this varies by location, age, race, ethnicity, and income level.

      What recent data on addiction treatment admissions shows:

      • In 2019, about 4.2 million—or 1.5 percent— of people in the U.S. received substance use treatment in the past year.
      • About 1.27 million Americans are receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
      • Over 21 million people were identified as needing substance use treatment—meaning less than one-quarter of those who needed it went on to receive it.
      • In a 2020 survey of over 300 treatment facilities, about 52 percent reported a rise in the need for treatment. Yet 65 percent reported having to cancel, reschedule, or turn away people in need.
      • Major barriers to seeking treatment include cost, insurance coverage, lacking nearby specialty care, and stigma.

      Addiction and substance abuse rates are ever-changing, yet treatment professionals are working tirelessly to help people recover with resources from treatment programs, free rehab centers, and more. Call today to find a drug rehab center near you.



      Written by the Addiction Resource Editorial Staff

      Medically Reviewed by
      Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 26, 2021

      This page does not provide medical advice. See more




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      10 Biblical Purposes for Fasting


      Throughout the Bible we most often find God’s people turn to fasting as the natural, inevitable response to a grievous sacred moment in life, such as death, sin and tragedy. But other times a fast is not a spontaneous reaction and we have time to prepare to respond both physically and spiritually.

      Fasting is not an end unto itself, but a means of focusing our minds and bodies for a spiritual reason. Whenever you fast, do so for a reason that is mentioned or modeled in the Bible. Here are ten primary purposes for fasting mentioned in Scripture:¹

      1. To strengthen prayer (e.g., see Ezra 8:23)

      Numerous incidents in the Old Testament connect fasting to prayer, especially intercessory prayer. Fasting does not change whether God hears our prayers, but it can change our praying. As Arthur Wallis says, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven.”²

      2. To seek God’s guidance (e.g., see Judges 20:26)

      As with prayer, fasting to seek God’s guidance isn’t done to change God but to make us more receptive to his guidance.

      3. To express grief (e.g., see 1 Samuel 31:13)

      Expressing grief is one of the primary reasons for fasting. Ever notice that when you’re moved to tears by grief you lose the urge to eat? When we grieve, our family and friends often have to plead with us to eat because our body’s appropriate response to grief is to fast. A prime example occurs in 2 Samuel 1:12, where David and his men are described as having “mourned and wept and fasted till evening” for their friends, their enemies and their nation.

      4. To seek deliverance or protection (e.g., see 2 Chronicles 20:3 – 4)

      Another common reason for fasting in the Old Testament was to seek deliverance from enemies or circumstances. In Scripture, this type of fast is generally carried out with other believers.

      5. To express repentance and a return to God (e.g., see 1 Samuel 7:6)

      This type of fasting helps us to express grief over our sins and shows our seriousness about returning to the path of godly obedience.

      6. To humble oneself before God (e.g., see 1 Kings 21:27 – 29)

      “Remember that fasting itself is not humility before God,” reminds Donald Whitney, “but should be an expression of humility.”³

      7. To express concern for the work of God (e.g., see Nehemiah 1:3 – 4)

      As with Nehemiah, fasting can be a tangible sign of our concern over a particular work God is doing.

      8. To minister to the needs of others (e.g., see Isaiah 58:3 – 7)

      We can use time we’d normally spend eating to fast and minister to others.

      9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (e.g., see Matthew 4:1 – 11)

      Fasting can help us focus when we are struggling with particular temptations.

      10. To express love and worship for God (e.g., see Luke 2:37)


      Fasting can show, as John Piper says, that “what we hunger for most, we worship.”⁴

      How should we equip ourselves when God calls us to “declare a holy fast”? Here are some things to consider as you prepare for fasting:

      Pray and confess your sins
      A necessary step before fasting is to humble yourself before God (see Psalm 35:13) and confess your sins (see 1 Samuel 7:6). Prayer should be our sustenance throughout the fast, but it is imperative we begin the fast with a contrite heart.

      Turn to Scripture
      Spend additional time meditating on God’s Word, before and during the fast.

      Keep it secret
      Fasting is unbiblical and even spiritually harmful when we do it to show off our spirituality (see Matthew 6:16 – 18) or when we focus more on our own fasting than on the clear needs of others (see Isaiah 58:1 – 11). Don’t boast about your fast; tell people you won’t be eating only if necessary. Fasting should not be done when imposed for false motives (see 1 Samuel 14:24-30).

      Prepare your body
      Fasting, especially for days or weeks, can have unexpected and even detrimental effects on your health. There is no scriptural warrant for harming yourself to undergo a fast. Be sure to consult a doctor before starting any fasting regimen to make sure you can fast in a healthy manner.

      Fasting is an appropriate bodily reaction to the grievous state of our soul. If it is done correctly you can expect many results, including growing closer to God, feeling more solidarity with those who suffer, and increasing self-control.

      For Reflection

      Rather than wondering whether you should fast, ask why you would want to miss out on the Father’s reward.

      ¹Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014).
      ²Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1993).
      ³Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines.
      ⁴John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997).

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      African American Gospel

      African American Gospel music is a form of euphoric, rhythmic, spiritual music rooted in the solo and responsive church singing of the African American South. Its development coincided with -- and is germane to -- the development of rhythm and blues.

      The precursor to black Gospel music is the African American spiritual, which had already been around for well over a century before Gospel music began its rise to popularity starting in the 1930s. Songs written by African American composers in the decades following emancipation that focused on biblical themes and often drew from spirituals were the source for the development of Gospel. An example is "De Gospel Cars," by the popular composer Sam Lucas.

      When many African American communities migrated from rural to urban life during the first half of the twentieth century, they brought their worship culture with them. Echoing the ways of the single-room churches of the agrarian South, the storefront churches of the northern cities became the key setting for the development of Gospel.

      Gospel artist Mahalia Jackson. Carl Van Vechten, Photographer. 1962. Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-120855

      During the 1930s, Gospel music emerged from the coalescing of three types of musical activity: a) the hymn style of Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933) a Philadelphia minister who composed hymns based on negro spirituals, adding instrumental accompaniments, improvisation and "bluesified" third and seventh intervals; b) the minimalist, solo-sung "rural Gospel" tunes that appeared as a counterpart to the rural blues; and c) the uninhibited, exuberant worship style of the Holiness-Pentecostal branch of the Christian church.

      The shift from spirituals to Gospel is evident in the recordings of African American religious songs recorded in the 1930s and 1940s. The Holloway High School Quartet of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, recorded by John W. Work, III in 1941, provides an example of a traditional spiritual arranged for four-part harmony in "Old ship of Zion,"  The same group in the same recording session demonstrated the sound of Gospel, as they sang an updated version of an old spiritual, "Daniel saw the stone." 

      A key figure in the development of Gospel was Thomas A. Dorsey (1899 -1993). Referred to today as the father of Gospel Music, Dorsey pioneered the form in Chicago. Before devoting his career to the development of Gospel, Dorsey, the son of a Georgia Baptist preacher, was a prolific blues and jazz composer and pianist. The energetic rhythms and primal growls of secular music heavily influenced Dorsey's sacred composing style.

      From its beginnings, Gospel music challenged the existing church establishment. Black religious leaders originally rejected Dorsey's approach because of its associations with the widely frowned-upon secular music styles of the era such as ragtime, blues, and jazz.

      "I know I've got religion," sung by the Golden Jubilee Quartet in 1943, is an example of an old spiritual arranged for Gospel quartet. The use of a rocking beat in Gospel began in the 1940s, as the secular form of what came to be called rhythm and blues was also catching on. An example is  "Death comes a knocking," performed by the Four Brothers, also recorded by Willis James in 1943.

      Thomas Dorsey teamed up with vocalist Mahalia Jackson (1912 - 1972) who, like him, had been exposed during her formative years to the Baptist church and the sounds of blues artists like Bessie Smith (through an aunt's record collection). Together, Dorsey and Jackson bypassed the establishment and took their new Christian sound to the street corners of Chicago and elsewhere around the country. Jackson sang Dorsey's songs while the composer hawked copies of his sheet music.

      Eventually, Dorsey and Jackson's vision spread through their alliance with a few likeminded musical pioneers to form of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, which is still thriving today.

      During its early development, Gospel music featured simple piano and organ accompaniment. Male vocal quartets were popular, having emerged under the auspices of African American universities like Fisk and Hampton. Originally these groups sang a cappella  spirituals, but started switching to the Gospel repertoire in the 1930s. In the 1940s, the quartets often added a fifth singer and guitar accompaniment.

      The sound of slide guitar sound from Hawaii began to influence many genres of American music shortly after Hawaii became a US territory in 1898. A style of Gospel music, called "sacred steel," emerged. View the concert starring Aubrey Ghent playing the sacred steel lap guitar.

      Although singers like Aretha Franklin had introduced Gospel style songs to the pop charts with songs like "Think" in 1968, church-centric Gospel music began to cross over into the mainstream following the release in 1969 of the recording of "O Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, a mixed-gender Gospel chorus based in the San Francisco Bay area. The song, which was based on a mid-eighteenth century English hymn sold more than a million copies in two months (well above average for a Gospel recording) and earned its composer, Edwin Hawkins (born 1943) his first of four Grammy Awards.

      Since Hawkins, other artists have emerged, taking Gospel music well beyond the black church. Today's Gospel songs are more harmonically complex than their traditional counterparts. Prominent names in the contemporary Gospel field include Andrae Crouch, Take 6, The New York Community Choir and the Cultural Heritage Choir.

      These days, Gospel songs are performed as solos or by small or large ensembles, and by men and women of all ages. Both blacks and whites sing the repertoire and the instrumentation possibilities are limitless, ranging from synthesizers and drums to full symphony orchestras. Hear, for example, Marion Williams's 1992 recording of "Amazing Grace,"

      The genre continues to make an impact on the popular music today. Its influence can be heard in the work of many secular performers, from the folk stylings of Simon and Garfunkel to the soul outpourings of Adele.


      • The African American Civil Rights Movement (Songs of America)
      • African American Song (Songs of America)
      • Blues (Songs of America)
      • Blues as Protest (Songs of America)
      • Now What a Time: Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938-1943.  Consists of approximately one hundred sound recordings, primarily blues and Gospel songs, and related documentation from the folk festival at Fort Valley State College (now Fort Valley State University), Fort Valley, Georgia. The documentation was created by John Wesley Work III in 1941 and by Lewis Jones and Willis Laurence James in March, June, and July 1943. These recording projects were supported by the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center).
      • Darden, Robert. People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music. Copyright (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004)
      • Hitchcock, H. Wiley and Stanley Sadie. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. (London: Macmillan, 1986) pp 254-261
      • Koskoff, Ellen, Ed. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Volume 3: The United States and Canada. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 2001) pp 629-636
      • Songs Related to the Abolition of Slavery (Songs of America)
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      How to Make a Will

      Here are the few simple steps you need to take to create your will.

      Updated by Valerie Keene, Attorney

      After you die, your will (if you have one) guides many important decisions—including who gets your property, who your executor is, who takes care of your minor children, and how your estate pays debts and taxes.

      Steps to Make a Will:

      1. Decide what property to include in your will
      2. Decide who will inherit your property
      3. Choose an executor to handle your estate
      4. Choose a guardian for your children
      5. Choose someone to manage children's property
      6. Make your will
      7. Sign your will in front of witnesses
      8. Store your will safely

      1. Decide what property to include in your will.

      To get started, list your significant assets. Then decide which items should (or must) be left by other methods, outside your will. Keep in mind that if you're married, each spouse makes a separate will. You can leave only your share of assets you own jointly with your spouse.

      2. Decide who will inherit your property.

      For most people, it isn't hard to decide who gets what. (But use caution if you are considering leaving your spouse or children out of your will.) After you make your first choices, don't forget to choose alternate (contingent) beneficiaries, too, in case your first choices don't survive you.

      3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.

      You can use your will to name an executor, who will carry out the terms of the will. The executor oversees the probate process, the distribution of your assets, and the payment of your debts and taxes. The person you name doesn't have to have any specific training because your executor can hire a lawyer to help. But be sure that the person you have in mind is willing to serve -- the job shouldn't come as a surprise.

      4. Choose a guardian for your children.

      If your children are minors, decide who you want to raise them in the very unlikely event that you and their other parent can't.

      5. Choose someone to manage children's property.

      If you leave property to children or young adults, you should choose an adult to manage whatever they inherit. To give that person authority over the child's inheritance, you can make him or her a property guardian, a property custodian under a law called the UTMA, or a trustee.

      6. Make your will.

      When it comes to how to make a will, you have several choices. You can:

      • Hire a lawyer. Many people choose to hire a lawyer to make their estate plan, and this is unequivocally the best choice if you need or want personalized legal advice--and you can afford to pay.
      • Use a statutory form. A few states provide a standard will form that you can fill out if you are a resident of that state. These states are California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. On the upside, statutory wills are simple, easy to fill out, and familiar to the probate court. On the other hand, they are often too simple and inflexible to be useful to most people.
      • Make a will yourself. Those who have relatively simple estates can make their own wills using high-quality do-it-yourself materials. DIY wills are not for everybody—including those who have complex business holdings, complicated debt, or serious family conflicts. But if you have a relatively simple estate and straightforward wishes, a dependable product like can save you time, money, and hassle, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer.

      7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.

      After making your will, you'll need to sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses. If you're using a document called a "self-proving affidavit" with your will (to make things simpler when the will goes through probate court after your death), your signature must be notarized as well. Full instructions are included with Nolo's Quicken WillMaker software.

      8. Store your will safely.

      Your will won't do anybody any good if your loved ones can't find it after you die. Store it someplace safe and clearly labeled, and share the location with your executor. Ideally, you'll keep it with other important documents in a file cabinet or desk drawer—someplace your family would look for it. You do not have to keep it in a lock box, and doing so could delay the probate process after your death.

      Making a Will in Your State

      Learn more about making a will in your state through the links below. And to get more plain-English information about estate planning visit Nolo's Wills, Trusts & Probate Center.

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      Six simple ways to smarter, healthier eating

      February 13, 2021

      Image: Bigstock

      To eat a healthier diet, you need to combine nutritional science, a jolt of common sense, and pure enjoyment. Most of us know that fresh salad, berries, and slowing down when eating are better for us than wolfing down energy bars and sweets. But how to make that leap from our current habits to healthier ones?

      Here are six ways you can eat healthy, delicious meals, and really enjoy what you're eating.

      1) Ditch fats that are solid at room temperature


      This simple change reduces saturated fat in your diet.

      How: Switch to the healthy fats such as olive oil, sunflower oil and canola oil that stay in a liquid form when stored in the cupboard. But all fats have a high caloric density, so just use what you need for cooking and salad dressings.

      2) Harness the power of nuts (and seeds)/media/content/images/L1114j-1.jpg

      Almonds, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios pack plenty of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Although many nuts are high in fat, the fat is mainly unsaturated — a great choice to help you eat healthy.

      How: First, put nuts on the grocery list. Nuts are high in calories, so it's best to enjoy them in place of other snacks, not in addition, and to keep serving sizes small.

      3) Taste food before you salt it

      Break the autopilot habit of reaching for the salt shaker to help you eat healthy.

      How: For two days, don't put any salt on your food at all. A short break can help reset your taste buds. Then, leave the salt shaker in the cabinet, so it becomes a bit of an effort to reach for it. Make a ritual out of truly tasting your food before you decide if it needs tweaking.

      4) Pack lunch once a week

      This makes healthy food choices readily available to you at work or on an outing. And since you are controlling portion sizes, you can make sure that you're not supersizing your meal. Plus, it saves you money.

      How: Once a week before you shop for groceries, write out a meal plan that leaves enough leftovers for one or two lunches.

      5) Eat five (or more) vegetables and fruits a day

      It's a nutrient-packed way to fill your plate that is generally low in calories.

      How: First, for one week, keep track of how often you eat fruits and vegetables. One serving equals one-half cup of chopped fruit or most vegetables; for raw leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, a serving is one cup. Once you have your baseline, try adding one fruit or vegetable serving a day.

      6) Plan meals that are delightful, delicious and healthy

      In an ideal world, food delights all our senses: it looks beautiful, smells heavenly, and tastes delicious, and its textures feel and even sound satisfying. Start thinking about food as something to really savor and enjoy.

      How: Pencil in time to prepare and savor one or two special meals a week. Once you've assembled great ingredients, set a gorgeous table. Take a moment to truly take in scents, companions, and surroundings, and if you like, give thanks.

      For 42 simple changes to help you exercise more, eat healthier, stress less, and live a happier, more fulfilling life, review Simple Changes, Big Rewards from Harvard Medical School.

      Image: marilyna/Getty Images




      As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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      Praying In The Spirit: Its Power and Benefits

      praying in the spirit


      Ever thought of praying the mind and the will of God concerning a matter?

      That’s where praying in the spirit comes in!

      In this post, we are going to be looking at a somewhat controversial topic that has divergent views among Christians – praying in the spirit.

      Amazingly, the bible instructs Christians to pray in the spirit always no matter what type of prayer they are doing! (See Ephesians 6:18)

      So that means praying in the spirit is important.

      Okay then, so what does praying in the spirit really mean?

      And what does the bible tells and teaches us about it?

      What are the benefits of praying in the spirit and how does one practice praying in the spirit!

      These and many more are what we are going to look into in this post.

      Praying In The Spirit

      Contents hide 

      1 What Is Praying In The Spirit?

      2 Benefits Of Praying In The Spirit

      3 How To Practice Praying In The Spirit

      3.1 1. Yield

      3.2 2. Listen.

      3.3 3. Respond

      4 Praying In the Spirit vs. Praying In Tongues

      5 Some Praying In The Spirit Bible Verses

      6 Final word

      What Is Praying In The Spirit?

      First things first, what is praying in the spirit?

      Against popular opinion, praying in the spirit is not speaking in tongues, yes, it does involve speaking in tongues, but it is more than that.

      Praying in the spirit is yielding, listening and responding to the impulses and leading of the Holy Spirit as you pray.

      It is actually allowing the Holy Spirit to direct, inspire and influence you prayers and the way you pray, such that you are able to pray the will of God (at the moment).

      One of the things the Scripture says of the Holy Spirit is that He helps us to pray because we do not know what to pray for and how to pray as we should. (Romans 8:26)

      So praying in the Spirit, is being helped of the Spirit to pray, being inspired of the Spirit to pray as against your own weaknesses and inability and limited knowledge and understanding of what and how to pray.

      In praying in the spirit, therefore, the Holy Spirit moves in, quickens your body, and helps your mind to grasp facts on prayers that are beyond your immediate knowledge and environment.

      He illuminates your mind with what to pray and how to pray it.

      Plus, the Holy Spirit takes it further by helping you to pray the inspired facts and knowledge (on what to pray about), through groaning and tongues.

      That way, the Holy Spirit is taking hold with you in prayer, helping you to pray the very will of God.

      Benefits Of Praying In The Spirit

      If what our elaborate definition above on what it means to pray in the spirit is correct, then what could be the benefits of yielding to the Spirit and letting Him inspire and direct your prayers.

      There is so much; praying in the spirit:

      1. Helps you to pray the will of God (the mind of God)

      2. Helps you in the prayer of intercession

      3. It helps you to pray correctly

      4. Helps you to pray with power

      5. Helps eliminates the doubts and the ‘ifs’ in prayer.

      6. Shuts the devil out of the way of your prayer

      7. Fills you with confidence that your prayers have been heard by God.

      8. Helps you to wait with certainly until you receive the physical manifestations and answer to your prayers since God has heard you.

      9. Fills you with faith and assurance that you will receive the answers no matter what and how long it takes the physical answer to come or arrive.

      10. Helps you with the divine presence of the Holy Spirit at such holy moments; you don’t want to miss out on the holy awe of the Holy Spirit that somewhat overshadows when you are lost in prayer by the Spirit.

      11. Helps to build up your faith (See Jude 1:20)

      READ ALSO: What Does The Holy Spirit Do?

      How To Practice Praying In The Spirit

      You see, there’s a lot to gain when you yield to God’s Spirit letting Him direct, inspire and influence your prayer.

      The results and answers to prayers are certain.

      Then to the discerning heart, it becomes a matter of utmost importance to then learn how to pray in the Spirit.

      All you need is practice; for ‘practice, they say, ‘makes perfect.’

      So here are simple steps on how you should practice to pray in the Spirit

      1. Yield

      Without the Holy Spirit, there’s no way you can pray in the Spirit.

      So the first thing to do to pray in the spirit is to learn to yield to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.

      For instance, may be you may have set out to pray on a particular matter, but then the Holy Spirit keeps bringing pictures of a different thing entirely to your mind as you pray, best practice is to yield to the Spirit by praying the things He’s inspiring in your mind at the moment, leaving your initial matter and plan behind.

      That’s how to yield to the Spirit. He knows what exactly you should be praying about and how to pray it correctly.

      After all, He is the spirit of grace and supplication.

      Yield to the Spirit.

      2. Listen.

      One way to practice to pray in the Spirit is by listening and paying attention to the impulses of the Spirit.

      It may be that the Holy Spirit wants you to pray ‘the word,’ a particular Scripture.

      And that Scripture is just the right bullet for that occasion.

      When you do not listen and you stick to your plan and already-made prayer points, you will miss out on praying the will of God.

      But the Holy Spirit is insistent, yet after a while, the Holy Spirit will stop nudging you on what to pray since you are not listening.

      That way, you have quenched the Spirit.  

      3. Respond

      Yielding to the Spirit and listening to Him is not complete until you obey.

      That’s to say you have got to be willing to respond to the light and impulses the Spirit is bringing to your mind as you pray.

      Response will mean praying in the direction He is leading you now.

      Response means praying the way He wants you to pray.

      Response means to pray.

      If you listen and know what the Spirit is asking of you and you still did not do it, you have not responded. 

      Praying In The Spirit

      READ ALSO: What Does Praying In The Spirit Mean?

      Praying In the Spirit vs. Praying In Tongues

      Earlier on, we stated that praying in the Spirit is more than praying in tongues.

      Yes, praying in tongues is part of praying in the spirit but it not all there is to it.

      Praying in tongues helps you to pray in the spirit well.

      It fills your prayer with more power and makes it far reaching.

      Having known the mind and the will of God by listening, praying in tongues will help you drive home the inspired prayers more effectively.

      It’s like hitting the nail at the head with the needed nail, or hitting the bulls eyes with the actual weapon.

      That’s what praying in tongues does.

      It really helps you to pray in the spirit correctly and well.

      Some Praying In The Spirit Bible Verses

      There are several bible verses on praying in the spirit but here are a few quick-referenced ones to help you drive home the point.

      1. Ephesians 6:18:

      “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

      2. Romans 8:26-27 (NIV):

      “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” 

      3. Jude 1:20:

      “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,”

      4. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15:

      “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” 

      5. Galatians 5:16-17:

      “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

      READ ALSO: How To Receive The Holy Spirit

      PS: Unless otherwise stated all scriptural quotations in this post are taken from the Authorised King James Version. And all scriptural quotations tagged NIV are taken online from the New International Version 2011published by Biblica.

      Final word

      There’s amazing power when you pray in the Spirit.

      Plus, so much is achieved when you add praying in tongues to your Spirit led, Spirit directed prayers.

      More so, there’s even more power when you add ‘praying the word’ and ‘praying in tongues’ to your Spirit inspired prayers.

      That way, you are sure that you are not praying amiss.

      And what about the assurance and confidence that fills your heart that you have touched the throne of grace.

      Answers to prayers all the way!

      And what about the holy presence that fills you at such moment of prayers, nothing compares to that atmosphere of heaven!  


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      What is a quick summary of each of the 66 books of the Bible?

      66 books of the Bible

      Here are quick summaries of the 66 books of the Bible:

      Old Testament:

      Genesis — God creates the universe and fashions humans in His own image and places them in a perfect environment. The humans rebel against God and lose their paradise. The rebellion gets so bad that God wipes out humanity with a flood, but He graciously preserves Noah and his family. Later, God chooses and blesses the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (or Israel) and promises them a land for their many descendants. Through this family God plans to bring a Savior to reconcile the sinful world to Himself.

      Exodus — The children of Israel, now living in Egypt, are forced into slavery. God prepares an Israelite named Moses to lead the people to freedom. The king is loath to let the slaves go, so God sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians. Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea, which God miraculously parts for them, and to Mt. Sinai. Camped at Sinai, the Israelites receive the Law of God, including the Ten Commandments. The Law is the basis of a covenant between God and people He has rescued, with promised blessings for obedience. The people promise to uphold the covenant.

      Leviticus — In the Law, God establishes a sacrificial system to atone for sins and a series of festivals for Israel to observe as days of worship. God gives Moses plans for a tabernacle, a tent where the sacrifices can be offered and God will meet with His people. God specifies that the rituals and ceremonies of the tabernacle are to be overseen by the family of Aaron, Moses’ brother.

      Numbers — The Israelites arrive at the border of Canaan, the land God had earlier promised to Abraham. But the people following Moses refuse to enter the land, due to their lack of faith and their fear of Canaan’s inhabitants. As a judgment, God consigns the Israelites to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, until the unbelieving generation passes away and a new generation takes their place. God sustains His rebellious people with miraculous provisions throughout their time in the wilderness.

      Deuteronomy — The new generation of Israelites is now ready to take possession of the Promised Land. Moses gives a series of final speeches, in which he reiterates the Law of God and promises that one day God will send another Prophet reminiscent of the power and mission of Moses. Moses dies in Moab.

      Joshua — Moses’ successor, Joshua, leads the children of Israel across the Jordan River (parted miraculously by God) and into Canaan. God overthrows the city of Jericho by knocking its walls down. Joshua leads the people in a successful campaign to conquer the whole of Canaan. With a few exceptions, the Israelites remain faithful to their promise to keep their covenant with God, and God blesses them with military victories. After the land is subdued, the Israelites divide Canaan into separate territories, giving each of the tribes of Israel a lasting inheritance.

      Judges — Joshua dies, and, almost immediately, the people begin to turn away from the God who had blessed them. Rather than driving out all the land’s inhabitants, they allow some of the Canaanites to survive, and the Israelites begin to worship the gods of the Canaanites. True to the terms of the covenant, God sends enemies to oppress His people. The suffering they endure causes them to repent, and God responds by sending leaders to rally the people and defeat the enemies, bringing peace to the land again. This cycle is repeated several times over a span of about 300 years.

      Ruth — During the time of the judges, a famine strikes the land, and a man of Bethlehem takes his family out of Israel to live in Moab. There, he and his two sons die. His widow, Naomi, returns to Israel along with one of her daughters-in-law, a Moabitess named Ruth. Back in Bethlehem, the two women face hardship, and Ruth gathers what food she can by gleaning in a barley field owned by a man named Boaz. Ruth is noticed by Boaz, and he gives her extra help. Since Boaz is related to Naomi’s late husband, he has the legal opportunity to redeem the family property and raise up an heir in the name of the deceased. Ruth asks Boaz to do just that, and Boaz agrees. He marries Ruth and purchases the property that had belonged to Naomi. Boaz and Ruth become the great-grandparents of Israel’s greatest king, David.

      1 Samuel — In answer to prayer, Samuel is born to a barren woman, who then dedicates her young son to the tabernacle. Samuel is raised by the judge and high priest, Eli. Early on, Samuel begins to receive messages from God and becomes known as a prophet. After Eli’s death, Samuel becomes Israel’s final judge. The people demand a king to make them more like other nations. Samuel advises against it, but the Lord directs Samuel to grant their request. Samuel anoints Saul as the first king. Saul starts out well, but he soon begins to act in pride and ignore God’s commands. God rejects Saul as king and instructs Samuel to anoint another person to take Saul’s place: that person is David, chosen while still a youth. David becomes famous in Israel for slaying the Philistine warrior Goliath, and Saul grows jealous to the point of madness. The king begins to pursue David, whose life is in constant danger as he takes refuge in the wilderness. Men loyal to David gather to him. Samuel dies, and, later, Saul and his sons are killed in a battle with the Philistines.

      2 Samuel — David is crowned king by his tribesmen in Judah, and they make the city of Hebron the capital of Judah. After a brief civil war, all the tribes of Israel unite under the leadership of David, God’s choice. The capital is moved to Jerusalem. God makes a promise to David that a son of his will rule on the throne forever. David seeks to follow God’s will, and God blesses David with victories over foreign enemies. Sadly, David falls into the sin of adultery and tries to cover his sin by having the woman’s husband killed. God pronounces judgment on David’s house, and trouble begins. David’s daughter is raped by her half-brother, who is then killed by Absalom, another of David’s sons, in revenge. Absalom then plots to overthrow David and take the throne. He gains a following, and David and those loyal to him are forced to flee Jerusalem. Absalom is eventually killed in battle, and David returns home in sorrow. Near the end of his life, David disobeys God and takes a census of the people, a sin for which God sends judgment on the nation.

      1 Kings — King David dies. His son Solomon takes the throne, but his brother Adonijah challenges him for it. After repeated attempts to usurp authority from his brother, Adonijah is executed. King Solomon is blessed by God with great wisdom, riches, and honor. He oversees the building of the temple in Jerusalem and dedicates it to the Lord in a grand ceremony. Later in life, Solomon forsakes the path of righteousness and serves other gods. After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam takes the throne, but his foolish choices lead to a civil war, and the nation is fractured in two. Rehoboam remains king of the southern kingdom, and a man named Jeroboam is crowned king of the ten tribes to the north. Both kings practice idolatry. Through the years, David’s dynasty in the southern kingdom occasionally produces a godly king; most of the kings are wicked, however. The northern kingdom is led by an unbroken series of wicked rulers, including the idolatrous Ahab and his wife Jezebel, during whose reign God sends a drought to punish Israel, along with a mighty prophet, Elijah, to point the people back to God.

      2 Kings — Elijah is translated to heaven, and Elisha takes his place as God’s prophet in Israel. Jehu becomes Israel’s king and wipes out the wicked family line of Ahab. In Judah, Ahab’s daughter becomes queen and attempts to kill all of David’s heirs, but she fails. Wicked kings rule in both nations, with the exception, in Judah, of a few reformers such as Hezekiah and Josiah. Israel’s persistent idolatry finally exhausts God’s patience, and He brings the Assyrians against them to conquer the people of Israel. Later, God brings the Babylonians against Judah as a judgment, and Jerusalem is destroyed.

      1 Chronicles — A genealogy traces God’s people from Adam to the kingdom years, with a focus on David’s family. The rest of the book covers much of the same material as 1 and 2 Samuel, with an emphasis on the life of David.

      2 Chronicles — This book covers much the same material as 1 and 2 Kings, with an emphasis on David’s dynasty in Judah. The book begins with the construction of the temple under Solomon, and it ends with the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians, with a proclamation, in the last few verses, that the temple would be rebuilt.

      Ezra — After 70 years of captivity in a foreign land, the people of Judah are allowed to return to their homeland to rebuild. A descendant of David named Zerubbabel, together with some priests, begins to rebuild the temple. Political opposition to the rebuilding forces a halt in construction for about 15 years. But then the work continues, encouraged by two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. About 57 years after the temple is completed, Ezra the scribe arrives in Jerusalem, bringing with him about 2,000 people, including priests and Levites to serve in the temple. Ezra finds that the people living in Judah have lapsed into sin, and he calls the people to repentance and a return to the law of God.

      Nehemiah — About 14 years after Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer in Persia, learns that the walls of Jerusalem are in a state of disrepair. Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and oversees the construction of the city walls. He is opposed by enemies of the Jews, who try to thwart the work with various tactics, but the wall is finished with God’s blessings in time to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. Ezra reads the book of the law publicly, and the people of Judah rededicate themselves to following it. The book of Nehemiah begins with sadness and ends with singing and celebration.

      Esther — Some exiled Jews have opted not to return to Jerusalem and have stayed in Persia instead. Xerxes, the king of Persia, chooses as his new queen a young woman named Esther. Esther is a Jewess, but she keeps her ethnicity secret at the behest of her cousin Mordecai, who has raised her. A high-ranking official in the kingdom, a man named Haman, plots a genocide against all the Jews in the kingdom, and he receives the king’s permission to carry out his plan—neither he nor the king knowing that the queen is Jewish. Through a series of divinely directed, perfectly timed events, Haman is killed, Mordecai is honored, and the Jews are spared, with Queen Esther being instrumental in it all.

      Job — A righteous man named Job suffers a series of terrible tragedies that take away his wealth, his family, and his health. Even after losing everything, Job does not curse God. Three friends come to commiserate with Job, but they eventually speak their minds about the situation, advancing the notion that God is punishing Job for some secret sin. Job denies any sinfulness on his part, yet in his pain he cries out to God for answers—he trusts God, but he also wants God to explain Himself. In the end, God shows up and overwhelms Job with His majesty, wisdom, and power. God restores Job’s fortune, health, and family, but the answer to why Job had suffered God never answers.

      Psalms — This collection of songs includes praise to the Lord, cries of the needy, worshipful adoration, laments, thanksgiving, prophecy, and the full spectrum of human emotion. Some of the songs were written for specific occasions, such as traveling to the temple or crowning a new king.

      Proverbs — A collection of moral teachings and general observances about life, this book is directed to those in search of wisdom. Subjects include love, sex, marriage, money, work, children, anger, strife, thoughts, and words.

      Ecclesiastes — A wise older man who calls himself the Preacher philosophizes about life, looking back over what he has learned from his experiences. The Preacher, having lived apart from God, recounts the futility of various dead-end paths. Nothing in this world satisfies: riches, pleasure, knowledge, or work. Without God in the equation, all is vanity.

      Song of Solomon — A king and a humble maiden express love and devotion to each other through their courtship, leading to a joyous and affirming consummation of the marriage on the wedding night. The song continues to depict some of the difficulties faced by the bridegroom and his bride in their married life, always coming back to the yearning the lovers have for each other and the undying strength of love.

      Isaiah — Isaiah is called as a prophet in Judah and brings God’s messages to several kings. God proclaims judgment against Judah for their religious hypocrisy. The prophet then delivers messages of warning to other nations, including Assyria, Babylon, Moab, Syria, and Ethiopia. For all of God’s anger against His people in Judah, He miraculously saves Jerusalem from an attack by the Assyrians. Isaiah predicts the fall of Judah at the hands of Babylon, but he also promises a restoration to their land. Isaiah looks even farther ahead to the promised Messiah, who will be born of a virgin, be rejected by His people, and be killed in the process of bearing their iniquities—yet the Messiah, God’s righteous Servant, will also rule the world from Jerusalem in a kingdom of peace and prosperity.

      Jeremiah — Jeremiah, living during the time of the Babylonian invasion of Judah, prophesies Babylon’s victory over Judah, a message that brings him much grief from the proud kings and false prophets in Jerusalem. Continually calling God’s people to repent, Jeremiah is regularly ignored and even persecuted. Through Jeremiah, God promises that He will one day establish a new covenant with Israel. The prophet lives to see the fall of Jerusalem and predicts that the people’s captivity in Babylon will last 70 years.

      Lamentations — In a long acrostic poem, Jeremiah weeps over the destruction of the land of Judah. The reproach and shame of God’s people is overwhelming, and all seems lost. Yet God is just in His discipline, and He is merciful in not destroying the rebellious nation completely; God’s people will yet see God’s compassion.

      Ezekiel — This is a book of prophecies written in Babylon by Ezekiel, a priest-turned-prophet. Ezekiel deals with the cause of God’s judgment against Judah, which is idolatry and the dishonor Judah had brought upon God’s name. Ezekiel also writes of judgment against other nations, such as Edom, Ammon, Egypt, and Philistia, and against the city of Tyre. Ezekiel then promises a miraculous restoration of God’s people to their land, the reconstruction of the temple, and God’s rule over all the nations of the earth.

      Daniel — As a young man, Daniel is taken captive to Babylon, but he and three friends remain steadfast to the Lord’s commands, and God blesses them with honor and high rank in the Babylonian Empire. They have enemies, though: Daniel’s three friends are thrown into a fiery furnace, and Daniel into a den of lions, but God preserves their lives in each case and bestows even more honor upon them. Daniel survives the overthrow of Babylon and continues prophesying into the time of the Persian Empire. Daniel’s prophecies are far-reaching, accurately predicting the rise and fall of many nations and the coming rule of God’s chosen king, the Messiah.

      Hosea — Hosea’s mission is to call Israel to repentance, as God is poised to judge them for their corruption and idolatry. At God’s command, Hosea marries a wife who is unfaithful to him, and then he must redeem her from prostitution. This sordid experience is an illustration of Israel’s spiritual adultery and the fact that a loving God is still pursuing them to redeem them and restore them to their proper place.

      Joel — Joel ministers in Judah during a time of drought and a locust plague, events that are signs of God’s judgment on the nation. Joel uses the current judgment to point the people to the future, worldwide judgment of the Day of the Lord, and he calls on everyone to repent. Joel’s final promise is that the Lord will dwell with His people in Zion and bring great blessing to the restored land.

      Amos — Amos begins with pronouncing judgment against Damascus, Tyre, Edom, and Gaza, among other places. The prophet travels north from Judah to Israel to warn that nation of God’s judgment. He lists their sins and extends God’s invitation to repent and be forgiven. After the destruction of Israel, God promises, there will be a time of restoration.

      Obadiah — From their seemingly secure, rock-bound homes, the Edomites had rejoiced at Judah’s fall, but Obadiah brings God’s sobering message: Edom, too, will be conquered, and that without remedy. God’s people will be the ultimate victors.

      Jonah — Jonah, a prophet in Israel, is instructed by God to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh to prophesy against it. Jonah disobeys, attempting to travel away from Nineveh, but God intercepts him at sea. Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. In the belly of the fish, Jonah repents, and the fish spits him back on dry ground. When Jonah prophesies in Nineveh, the Assyrians humble themselves before God and repent, and God does not bring judgment upon them. Jonah is angry that God has forgiven the people he hates, and God reasons with his obstinate prophet.

      Micah — In a series of three messages, Micah calls on both Judah and Israel to hear the word of God. He prophesies of coming judgment on both kingdoms and foresees the blessed kingdom of God, ruled by a king who would be born in Bethlehem. Micah ends his book with a promise that God’s anger will turn and that God’s people will be restored.

      Nahum — Nahum’s prophecy concerns the destruction of Nineveh. Nahum gives the reasons for it and promises God’s judgment on this nation that had once terrorized the rest of the world. Unlike God’s judgment against Israel, the judgment against Nineveh will have no respite, and the destruction will not be followed by restoration.

      Habakkuk — The prophet questions God about something he cannot understand: namely, how God can use the wicked Babylonians to punish God’s own people, Judah. The Lord answers by reminding Habakkuk of His sovereignty and faithfulness and that, in this world, the just will live by faith.

      Zephaniah — Zephaniah warns of the coming Day of the Lord, a prophecy fulfilled, in part, by the invasion of Babylon and, more remotely, at the end of time. Other nations besides Judah are also warned of coming judgment, including Philistia, Moab, Cush, and Assyria. Jerusalem is called to repent, and the book ends with a promise from God to restore His people to favor and glory.

      Haggai — Haggai lives and preaches during the time of Zerubbabel and Zechariah. The reconstruction of the temple had begun, but opposition from the Jews’ enemies has halted the work for about 15 years. Haggai preaches a series of four sermons to spur the people back to work so that the temple can be completed.

      Zechariah — A contemporary of Haggai and Zerubbabel, Zechariah encourages the people of Jerusalem to finish the reconstruction of the temple, a work that has languished for about 15 years. Eight visions relate God’s continuing plan for His people. Judgment on Israel’s enemies is promised, along with God’s blessings on His chosen people. Several messianic prophecies are included, predicting the Messiah’s coming, His suffering, and His eventual conquering glory.

      Malachi — Ministering to post-exilic Israel, Malachi calls God’s people to repentance. The prophet condemns the sins of divorce, bringing impure sacrifices, withholding tithes, and profaning God’s name. The book, and the Old Testament, ends with a description of the Day of the Lord and the promise that Elijah will come before that dreadful day.

      New Testament:

      Matthew — The ministry of Jesus Christ is presented from the point of view that Jesus is the Son of David and thus the rightful king to rule from Israel’s throne. Jesus offers the kingdom to His people, but Israel rejects Him as their king and crucifies Him. Jesus rises again and sends His disciples into all the world to proclaim His teaching.

      Mark — The ministry of Jesus Christ is presented from the point of view that Jesus is the Righteous Servant of God. Jesus obeys the Father’s will and accomplishes all He had been sent to do, including dying for sinners and rising again from the dead.

      Luke — The ministry of Jesus Christ is presented from the point of view that Jesus is the Son of Man who came to save the whole world. Jesus shows the love of God to all classes of people, regardless of race or gender. He is unjustly betrayed, arrested, and murdered, but He rises again.

      John — The ministry of Jesus Christ is presented from the point of view that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus speaks at length of His nature and work and the necessity of faith, and He proves that He is the Son of God through a series of public miracles. He is crucified and rises again.

      Acts — This sequel to the life of Christ follows the ministry of the apostles following Jesus’ ascension. The Holy Spirit arrives to fill and empower Jesus’ followers, who begin to preach the gospel in the midst of mounting persecution. Paul, a former enemy of the Christians, is converted and called by Christ as an apostle. The church begins in Jerusalem, expands to Samaria, and spreads to the Roman world.

      Romans — This theological treatise, written by Paul on one of his missionary journeys, examines the righteousness of God and how God can declare guilty sinners to be righteous based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Having been justified by faith, believers live in holiness before the world.

      1 Corinthians — The church in Corinth is riddled with problems, and the apostle Paul writes to give them God’s instructions on how to deal with various issues, including sin and division in the church, marriage, idolatry, spiritual gifts, the future resurrection, and the conduct of public worship.

      2 Corinthians — The problems in the church in Corinth have for the most part been worked through, and Paul writes this letter to encourage them, to explain the love gift he is collecting for Judean Christians, and to defend his apostleship against critics who are speaking out against him.

      Galatians — False teachers have infiltrated the churches in Galatia, falsely suggesting that works of the law (specifically circumcision) must be added to faith in Christ in order for salvation to be real. In no uncertain terms, Paul condemns the mixture of law and grace, showing that salvation and sanctification are all of grace. Christ’s salvation has set us free. We rely on the Spirit’s work, not our own.

      Ephesians — Salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ, and not by our own works. The life Jesus gives, to Jew and Gentile alike, results in a new heart and a new walk in this world. The church is the Body of Christ, and marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. God has provided spiritual armor to wage spiritual battle.

      Philippians — Writing this letter from a Roman prison, Paul thanks the church in Philippi for the love gift they had sent him. The gospel of Christ is advancing in the world, despite hardship, and Christians can rejoice in that. We are urged to humble ourselves as Christ did, be unified, and press toward the goal of pleasing the Lord in all things.

      Colossians — Despite what false teachers might claim, Jesus Christ is the Savior, Lord, and Creator of all things. In Him, all believers are made alive and complete; they need not submit themselves to manmade regulations or the mandates of the Old Testament law. The new life we have in Christ will affect our relationships with spouses, parents, children, masters, and servants.

      1 Thessalonians — Paul reviews the start of the church in Thessalonica, and he commends them for their steadfast faith. Believers are encouraged to live pure lives and to maintain the hope that Jesus will return. When Christ comes again, He will resurrect believers who have died and will rapture those still living to be with Him forever. The Day of the Lord is coming, which will result in the judgment of this world.

      2 Thessalonians — The church of Thessalonica is enduring persecution, and some believers wonder if the Day of the Lord had already arrived. Paul assures them that what they are experiencing is not God’s judgment. Before that terrible day comes, there must be a worldwide rebellion, a removal of the Restrainer, and the rise to power of the man of lawlessness. But God will protect His children. Until the time that Christ returns, keep doing what is right.

      1 Timothy — Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus, is the recipient of this letter from Paul. A pastor must be qualified spiritually, be on guard against false doctrine, pray, care for those in the church, train other leaders, and above all faithfully preach the truth.

      2 Timothy — In this very personal letter at the end of his life, Paul encourages Timothy to hold fast to the faith, focus on what is truly important, persevere in dangerous times, and preach the Word of God.

      Titus — Titus, an overseer of churches on the island of Crete, has the job of appointing elders in the churches there, making sure the men are qualified spiritually. He must beware of false teachers, avoid distractions, model the Christian life, and enjoin all believers to practice good works.

      Philemon — In this short letter to Philemon, a believer in Colossae, the apostle Paul urges him to show the love of Christ and be reconciled to a runaway, thieving slave. Under Roman law, the slave could face severe punishment, but Paul urges grace for the sake of Christ. Philemon should welcome his slave back into the household, not as a slave now but as a beloved brother in Christ.

      Hebrews — There are Jewish members of the church who are tempted to return to the Jewish law. The author of this epistle urges them not to look back but to move on to full spiritual maturity, by faith. Jesus Christ is better than angels and better than Moses, and He has provided a better sacrifice, a better priesthood, and a better covenant than anything in the Old Testament. Having left Egypt, we must enter the Promised Land, not continue to wander aimlessly in the wilderness.

      James — In this very practical book, James shows what faith lived out looks like. True, saving faith will affect our prayer life, our words, our response to trials, and our treatment of others.

      1 Peter — The apostle Peter writes to believers under persecution in Asia Minor, addressing them as “God’s elect, exiles scattered” (1 Peter 1:1). He reminds them of the grace of God, assures them of their heavenly home, teaches them to exhibit holiness, instructs them on marital relations, and encourages them as they face suffering.

      2 Peter — With his death impending, Peter writes the churches, exhorting them to follow the Word of God, identify and avoid false teachers, and live in holiness as they await the second coming of Christ.

      1 John — God is light, love, and truth. Those who truly belong to Christ will seek fellowship with His redeemed; walk in the light, not in darkness; confess sin; obey God’s Word; love God; experience a decreasing pattern of sin in their lives; demonstrate love for other Christians; and experience victory in their Christian walk.

      2 John — The Christian life is a balance of truth and love. We cannot forsake truth in the name of love; neither can we cease loving because of a misdirected notion of upholding the truth.

      3 John — Two men are contrasted: Gaius, who shows his commitment to truth and love through hospitality; and Diotrephes, who shows his malice and pride through a lack of hospitality.

      Jude — The message of the gospel will not change. But there are men who attempt to pervert the message and teach false doctrines to benefit themselves and lead people astray. These men must be resisted in the truth.

      Revelation — Jesus is the Lord of the church, and He knows the condition of each local body of believers. The end times will be marked by an increase in wickedness, the rise of the Antichrist’s one-world government, and the fury of Satan against God’s people on earth. God pours out His wrath on a rebellious and unrepentant world in a series of judgments that steadily increase in severity. Finally, the Lamb of God returns to earth with the armies of heaven, defeating the forces of evil arrayed against Him and setting up His kingdom of peace. Satan, the Antichrist, and the wicked of every age are thrown into the lake of fire, while the followers of Christ inherit a new heaven and new earth.
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