1 in 4 Americans Doesn’t Believe in God; Lack of Trust in Local Churches Cited as a Reason Why Adults Are Leaving the Faith, by Stoyon Zaimov

Barna Group has released its 2015 study on the state of atheism in America, and has revealed that one in four unchurched adults in the country now identify as atheists or agnostics. The study also found that rejection of the Bible and lack of trust in the church are two main reasons why people are turning away from faith.

The study was focused on those who have not attended church within the past six months, and found that the majority of such people identify as non-practicing Christians. One in four, or 25 percent, however, were classed as skeptics, which Barna defines as people who “either do not believe God exists (atheists) or are not sure God exists, but are open to the possibility (agnostics).”

Of that number, nearly one-third said that they have never attended a Christian church service in their lives.

Barna found that the three main reasons people decide not to believe in God stem from rejection of the Bible; lack of trust in the local church; and the “cultural reinforcement of a secular worldview.”

“Skeptics dismiss the idea that the Bible is Holy or supernatural in any way. Two-thirds contend that it is simply a book of well-known stories and advice, written by humans and containing the same degree of authority and wisdom as any other self-help book,” the report said.

It added that the other one-third believe that the Bible is either a historical document that contains “the unique but not God-inspired accounts of events that happened in the past,” or do not really know what to make of the Bible.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said: “The data show that some cities — and younger generations— are more Gospel-resistant than others. It is increasingly common among millennials to dismiss religion, God, churches, authority and tradition. For years, some observers have claimed colleges and universities are a breeding ground for anti-God sentiment. The data does lend support to the notion that college campuses are comfortable places for young people to abandon God and assume control of their own lives.”

The group explained that today’s skeptics, much like their counterparts two decades ago, are defined by their denial and doubts about God’s existence. Their demographics have been changing considerably, however.

As other studies have also found, younger people are more likely to be skeptics than older people. Barna says that today, 34 percent of all skeptics are younger than 30.

The statistics also showed that half of all skeptics have a college degree, and that many more women today are joining their ranks — only 16 percent of skeptics in 1993 were women, but by 2013 that number grew to 43 percent.

Kinnaman added in his statement: “Figuring out how to effectively engage skeptics is difficult. One of the unexpected results we uncovered is the limited influence of personal relationships on skeptics. They are considerably less relational and less engaged in social activities than the average American. Christians for whom ‘ministry is about relationships’ may be disappointed when they find that many skeptics are not as enamored of relational bonds as are those who are already a part of church life.”

“But in giving his followers the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t mention anything about doing what is easy. New levels of courage and clarity will be required to connect beyond the Christianized majority.”

Barna reached out to 23,000 churched and unchurched adults for the study, and found that for each survey of 1,000 people, the estimated maximum sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Other polls, such as the 2014 General Social Survey conducted by NORC and the University of Chicago, which was released in March, also found that the number of Americans leaving organized religion is at a record high, at 21 percent.

The survey reported, however, that only 3 percent of the respondents to its poll are atheist, while 5 percent identified as agnostic, which is a notably lower number than Barna’s statistics.

Building Trust and Intimacy in Communication (1)

“Say the right thing at the right time!” Pr 15:23 NLT

According to ground-breaking neurological research, you can “train” yourself to speak and listen in a way that stimulates sympathy and trust in the brain of the person you’re talking to. Think how valuable that is in communication! Here are some proven principles to help you do it: (1) Breathe deeply and stretch before speaking. When you’re handling a stressful situation, remaining calm is essential. Stress generates uptightness, uptightness leads to anger, and anger shuts down your ability to get your point across. So take a few moments to breathe deeply, while counting slowly to five. It’s also been established that things like stretching your neck muscles and yawning, change your brain in ways that measurably improve your communication skills. We are “wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14). (2) Think encouraging thoughts. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Pr 23:7 NKJV). Any negative thought you harbor can interfere with the parts of your brain used in language processing, listening, and speech, which can lead to defensiveness and distrust. Neurological studies found that thinking positive thoughts about the other person, or yourself, or the topic at hand, can help you to achieve success in your personal and business relationships. (3) Seal it with a smile. Your face reveals your feelings. “Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been” (Ge 31:2 NIV). Research shows that pleasing memories and thoughts of people you love create facial expressions that convey kindness, compassion, and interest, stimulating trust and openness in others.

John 18:8 Jesus said unto them, If ye seek Me, let these go their way.

Mark, my soul, the care which Jesus manifested even in His hour of trial, towards the sheep of His hand! The ruling passion is strong in death. He resigns Himself to the enemy, but He interposes a word of power to set His disciples free. As to Himself, like a sheep before her shearers He is dumb and opened not His mouth, but for His disciples’ sake He speaks with Almighty energy. Herein is love, constant, self-forgetting, faithful love. But is there not far more here than is to be found upon the surface? Have we not the very soul and spirit of the atonement in these words? The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, and pleads that they must therefore go free. The Surety is bound, and justice demands that those for whom He stands a substitute should go their way. In the midst of Egypt’s bondage, that voice rings as a word of power, “Let these go their way.” Out of slavery of sin and Satan the redeemed must come. In every cell of the dungeons of Despair, the sound is echoed, “Let these go their way,” and forth come Despondency and Much-afraid. Satan hears the well-known voice, and lifts his foot from the neck of the fallen; and Death hears it, and the grave opens her gates to let the dead arise. Their way is one of progress, holiness, triumph, glory, and none shall dare to stay them in it. No lion shall be on their way, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon. “The hind of the morning” has drawn the cruel hunters upon himself, and now the most timid roes and hinds of the field may graze at perfect peace among the lilies of his loves. The thunder-cloud has burst over the Cross of Calvary, and the pilgrims of Zion shall never be smitten by the bolts of vengeance. Come, my heart, rejoice in the immunity which thy Redeemer has secured thee, and bless His name all the day, and every day.

New Gratitude for a New Day

“‘The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.’” — Leviticus 7:15

The  portion for this week is Tzav, which means “commandfrom Leviticus 6:1–8:36, and the  is from Jeremiah 7:21–8:3; 9:22

This past December, the Israeli government released details regarding a thwarted terror attack that would have otherwise resulted in one of Israel’s deadliest strike in decades. The plot involved a woman who planned to disguise herself as a pregnant Jewish woman, while in truth, a belt of explosives would be strapped to her belly. Once she reached her target, she intended to detonate the explosives, claiming countless Israeli lives. Thank God, with a little help from Israel’s intelligence agency and a lot of help from God, the plan was uncovered before it could be carried out.

This is one of God’s miraculous salvations that we were made aware of; however, for every thwarted attack reported, there are numerous others that aren’t. In addition, how many attacks are stopped by God without us even knowing it?

I once read about a conversation that occurred between a rabbi and a Czarist official in Russia. The official asked the rabbi why the book of Psalms repeatedly states that the nations of the world should praise God for saving Israel. Shouldn’t it be the Jews who praise God for their own salvation? The rabbi answered, “We have no way of knowing the extent of your conspiracies against us . . . Since you are far more conscious than we are of the magnitude of God’s miraculous salvations, only you can appreciate the full extent of His greatness.”

In this week’s Torah portion concerning the details about the ritual sacrifices, we are told that the thanksgiving offering had to be consumed on the day that it was brought. Now, the thanksgiving offering was part of the category of peace offerings where the general rule was that there were two days allotted to consume the sacrifice. Why was there an exception made for the thanksgiving offering?

The answer is because when we thank God for a miracle on one day, it is already outdated by the next. God performs new miracles for us every day – whether we know it or not – and so yesterday’s gratitude is no longer sufficient for today. Each day there are new miracles to be thankful for. Every time we get in our car, cross the street, or fly on an airplane, God is protecting us with miracles. Even as we sleep, God is watching over us. He protects our children and saves them from all kinds of disasters that we will never know about.

Today, thank God for the miracles that are obvious in your life, but also acknowledge the many miracles that are never made known. Every day brings new salvations whether we see them or not. So sing His praises every day, for every day He is deserving of them.

The Rewards of Confrontation

“Do not reject the Lord’s discipline.”   Pr 3:11 NCV

The Bible says, “Do not reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t get angry when he corrects you. The Lord corrects those he loves, just as parents correct the child they delight in” (vv. 11-12 NCV). Because God loves you, when He sees things in your life that could potentially damage you and other people, He deals with them. Paul writes, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God” (Ro 11:22 NKJV). God will deal with you gently, but if you don’t listen He may have to deal with you severely. That’s because He has too much invested in you to let you fail. And not only does God confront us, He expects us to confront one another when we’re in the wrong. Paul stood up to Peter, his fellow leader, in front of Jewish and Gentile believers because the issue was important to their mission’s success (See Gal 2:14). Healthy confrontation results in six things: (1) Clarification. You get a better understanding of the person and what happened. (2) Change. Hopefully improvement will come from it—and the improvement may be in you! (3) An improved relationship. Handled correctly, confrontation will deepen your relationship with the other person. (4) Purity. As word gets out, the organization will be purified and sobered. (5) Respect. People will appreciate and respect your leadership even more. (6) Security. They’ll feel safe knowing that you’re strong enough to take a stand when it counts. People want a leader who says, “When there’s a problem I’ll deal with it directly, promptly, and respectfully. I’ll help correct the situation and get us back on track.”