Friday, April 30, 2010

The Dangers of Judging and Legalism

The sins of legalism and judging cause many of the interpersonal conflicts we experience as believers. Plaguing many of our Christian institutions, from churches to schools to families, these attitudes and actions sap our spiritual strength and weaken the work of God in our midst.

The Scripture is clear. Do not pass judgment and do not exceed what is written (1 Cor. 4:5-6). Learning to identify and avoid these sins will help promote peace and joy in the body of Christ, and encourage us to pursue our unity in faith. Unfortunately, most Christians have, at one time or another, borne the brunt of inappropriate judging and of legalism.

True legalism has a two-fold definition in the Word of God.

First, legalism is to mix works with grace for salvation (Galatians 1). This is the theme of the epistle of Galatians. Paul warns the churches against turning from the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6) and emphasizes that salvation is not by works or law-keeping but by the grace of Christ alone.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:10-11).

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24-25).

According to this definition, legalists today are any who add works to the grace of Christ for salvation.

Second, legalism is to add human tradition to the Word of God.

“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9).

We must be careful never to add our own tradition and teaching to the Word of God. There is one authority for faith and practice, and that is the Bible. Anything that is exalted to a place of authority equal to the Bible is condemned by God.

The Pharisees of old, in committing both of these errors, were true legalists. They rejected the grace of Jesus Christ and taught that the way of salvation was by the keeping of the law and they made their own tradition authoritative over people’s lives.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A day of prayer for judicial common sense

The news came as a bit of a shock last week: According to a federal judge in Wisconsin, the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that a federal endorsement of the day somehow violates the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.

To even the casual observer, Judge Crabbs's decision was a curious and perplexing one. After all, there have been federally recognized days of prayer in America for as long as there have been stars on the flag.

In fact, to review the history of sanctioned and recognized prayer in the United States is to study the history of the country itself. Dating back to 1775, the Continental Congress designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation. President George Washington called for a "Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer" in 1795. President James Madison followed suit, as did President Abraham Lincoln during the darkest days of the Civil War.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went a step further when he addressed the nation on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, leading the country in a somber but powerful petition. "Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace," he implored, "and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph." Over the crackle of the late night radio airwaves President Roosevelt couldn't have been more overt and passionate, sounding as much prophet and preacher as president: "Help us, Almighty God," he continued, "to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice."

Of course, to be fair, precedent alone is not reason enough to uphold the constitutionality of a national tradition. If it were, the evils of slavery would still be with us and the civil rights of millions of Americans would still be bound up in the prejudicial politics of the past. But in this instance, regarding the declared unconstitutionality of the National Day of Prayer, both fact and faith are clearly at odds with Judge Crabb's unilateral decision.

Legal scholars agree that the Establishment Clause was devised to prevent the United States government from declaring and financially supporting a "national religion" much like Great Britain did with the Church of England.

And thank God they did.

But even an enthusiastic atheist would have a difficult time explaining how merely recognizing the first Thursday in May as a "Day of Prayer" (without any denominational attribution or financial support) is akin to establishing a national religion. By Judge Crabb's standards, if the federal recognition of the National Day of Prayer is illegal, so is Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.

As a Christian, I view the matter of prayer with an admitted bias, but one studied with both my head and heart. Clearly, prayer means different things to different people. Personally, I receive my understanding of prayer and its collective purpose and power from the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. I do not view prayer as merely a recitation of personal requests, though I do regularly pray for the health and well-being of my wife and two boys. Prayer is very personal; it helps me remember again and again that life is not about me and how utterly and wholly dependent I am on God.

I am not alone in my understanding and practice of this both mysterious and reflective practice; but we Christians support a National Day of Prayer for reasons well beyond selfish interest. A colleague of mine at Focus on the Family tells the story of a mentor back in Texas who used to say he always got down on his knees to pray because "it makes it real clear who's in charge." Christians understand prayer to be powerful because it is the way in which we humbly and gratefully praise God. We don't believe prayer changes God's mind, but rather that prayer changes our hearts. And changed hearts lead to a more humble, grateful and healthy nation of Americans.

Who, may I ask, could possibly be opposed to that?

Judge Crabb's ruling is now rightly under appeal. I am optimistic. But for perspective regarding the way forward, believers might look to a wonderful lesson in the New Testament's Book of Acts. There, in Chapter 4, we read of two men, Peter and John, who were arrested and imprisoned for talking openly about Jesus. They were later released. When they returned to their people and explained their plight, their group did a curious and counter-cultural thing. They didn't gripe or grumble; they prayed for their captives and asked for courage to keep the faith and stay on message:

... consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

I believe we have reached a time and place where we are called to do likewise. I am encouraged, actually, to think that Judge Crabb's decision seems poised to do what years of free expression has not - awakened a sleeping Christian people, many of whom (though not all) have taken so many of our freedoms for granted for so long.

Now is the time for Christians, like those of the early church, to be strong and confident, not bitter or embattled.

Now is the time for believers to be bold but humble, courageous but compassionate.

Now is the time, to quote the late Ruth Graham, wife of beloved Dr. Billy Graham, to "pray for a tough hide and a tender heart."

[by Jim Daly, President, CEO, Focus on the Family]

National Day of Prayer, May 6, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Task Force pulls out of Pentagon prayer event

An official with the National Day of Prayer Task Force believes the strongest military force in the world has bowed to pressure from a small group of people who oppose prayer at the Pentagon.

John Bornschein was responding to news that the Pentagon has withdrawn an invitation for evangelist Franklin Graham to take part in an interfaith ceremony at the Pentagon.

Plans called for Graham to be part of an ecumenical service at the Pentagon during the National Day of Prayer event set for May 6, but after groups such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and the Council on American Islamic Relations complained about statements Graham had previously made about Islam, the Army announced it had withdrawn its request for the evangelist to speak.Bornschein, executive director of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, explains that although the prayer event is sponsored by the Army chaplains, the organization would help by providing resources and speakers. But when the announcement came that Graham had been disinvited, the task force pulled out of the Pentagon event.

"In 2003, this same issue arose. These groups that are not only attacking the National Day of Prayer as [unconstitutional] tried to take shots at every aspect of the day of prayer, whether it's contacting our governors [or] contacting the Pentagon," Bornschein explains.

He reports that "collectively, these are all very small groups. Even if they were all to join forces, they probably wouldn't fill an office space of 30 people. And yet they are taking advantage of an opportunity – the media – to [persuade] the largest, most powerful military force on the planet to not have a prayer event. And for whatever reason, they have actually conceded to that this year."

Other events sponsored by the task force will be held as scheduled at the Capitol.

[by Allie Martin - OneNewsNow]

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How much do you know about Islam?

Devout Muslims have a sacred responsibility, according to the command of Allah through his prophet Muhammad, to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them (Sura 9:5)." Over 100 verses in the Koran call for the death of infidel Christians and Jews. We have seen the tragic fruit of this ideology both on 9/11 and at Fort Hood. Islam is not, in fact, a religion of peace but of violence, death and war.

Islam, through the example of Muhammad, sanctions the marriage of girls who are but children. Muhammad himself began having sex with his youngest wife Aisha when she was just nine years old (Bukhari, Vol. 8). Just last week, a 12-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia went to court to divorce her 80-year-old husband. In the West, these are acts of pedophilia and utterly at odds with the Christian principle that the sexual purity of young females is to be protected until they are mature enough to voluntarily and freely enter into marriage.

Christians are granted only second class status under Islam, and are given only three choices where Islam reigns: conversion, submission or death. Conversion from Islam to Christianity remains a capital offense in many Muslim countries. In supposedly free Egypt, Coptic Christians are even today routinely harassed, persecuted and killed by Islamic fundamentalists. Freedom of religion, a profoundly American value, is utterly absent in Islam. Further, this practice is directly at variance with the fundamental concept in American jurisprudence that we are all, everyone of us, equal under the law.

Women under the iron fist of Islam are given "horrid" treatment. In many Islamic countries, women are not allowed to receive an education or even show their faces in public. Husbands are taught in the Koran that they may literally beat their wives into submission, completely contrary to the Christian admonition that husbands are to "love their wives as Christ loved the church."

The blatant and deadly sexism in Islam is contrary to the fundamental Christian precept that men and women are full equals before the true God in spiritual worth, value and significance.

The practice of honor killings is widespread in the Islamic world. According to the U.N., over 5,000 women a year are brutally murdered under the flag of Islam, in many cases because they have brought "dishonor" to their families by becoming the tragic victims of rape. The "horrid" practice of honor killings sadly has come to the U.S. A Muslim husband decapitated his wife in New York, while a Muslim father in Texas shot his two teenage daughters to death in the back of a taxi cab and another Muslim father in Arizona ran his daughter down with the family SUV. The crime in the latter two cases was that their daughters had become too "Westernized." This practice is utterly at odds with the Christian teaching that fathers are to nurture and protect their children.

Some of the Best Words I Know

“THANK YOU” - Words of gratitude mean recognition of the good another has done to you or for you — simple or deserving of a lifetime of devotion.

“I LOVE YOU” - We need to hear words of love expressed out loud. The story of the insensitive husband who said, “Of course I love you and if I change my mind, you’ll be the first to know!” Telling a child ten times I love you might not be powerful enough to overcome yelling at them once.

“WHAT DO YOU NEED?” - Being conscious that those around you have needs that you can help them with is powerful.

“I’M SORRY” - Indispensable to any person who wishes to heal the hurt that they may have caused — very hard for us to say. We need to admit we have done something wrong which can be very humbling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Using Time Effectively

Leaders of effective churches make certain that their family and work life is balanced, says Dr. Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Their research team asked over 200 pastors to provide them with an hour-by-hour calendar of a typical 168-hour week.

The study included 101 pastors who researchers called effective leaders because their churches ranked in the top five percent in conversion growth in American churches. A comparison group of pastors of similar number were leading churches that did not have significant conversion growth.

The following results show some of the most significant differences between the pastors of the effective churches versus the pastors of the comparison churches:

- Pastors of effective churches sleep slightly over six hours per day. Pastors of comparison churches sleep almost eight hours per day.
- Pastors of effective churches spend twenty-two hours in sermon preparation each week versus four hours for pastors of comparison churches.
- The effective church leaders spent ten hours each week in pastoral care (counseling, hospital visits, weddings, funerals) compared to thirty-three hours for the comparison group pastors.
- Effective church leaders average five hours per week in sharing the gospel with others. Most of the comparison church pastors entered "0" for their weekly time in personal evangelism.
- Comparison church leaders spend eight hours a week — more than an hour each day — performing custodial duties at the church. The typical custodial duties included opening and closing the facilities, turning on and off the lights, and general cleaning of the building.
- Leaders of effective churches average 22 hours a week in family activities. The comparison church leaders weren't too far behind with 18 hours of family time each week.

The time allocation of effective leaders seems to complement the way they describe their own leadership styles. In order to accomplish what they considered priority functions, they had to sacrifice in other areas. Thus, the effective leaders cannot do many of the responsibilities often expected of them as pastors — such as numerous hospital visits, counseling everyone and all of the custodial duties that may be expected of them — but they can oversee those responsibilities.

[ChristianPost.com]

Will You Stand Up for God in America?

Today is an incredible time in our nation's history. The very public mention of God, of praying in public, and of the role of Almighty God in our government and country are being stripped away. Consider this:

  • U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb last week issued the decision that the 1988 federal law designating a National Day of Prayer in the United States is unconstitutional.
  • President Obama would not formally observe last year's National Day of Prayer at the White House. (He did not cancel the National Day of Prayer in Washington as it has been rumored.)

I believe America has been successful because we, as a people and nation, have honored God, we have made Him preeminent in our lives, and He has been recognized within our government

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1. GET INVOLVED in this year's National Day of Prayer on MAY 6. There will be prayer vigils in Washington, D.C. on the steps on the U.S. Capitol, at the Washington Monument, and at the ellipse near the Jefferson Memorial. Thousands of other local gatherings are planned in cities and communities across our great land.

2. ADD YOUR NAME to the DECLARATION FOR PRAYER petition. Join in telling President Obama that Christian prayer -- prayer to no other God but the God of the Bible -- is vital to the present and future of our nation. The petition urges the Obama Administration to immediately appeal the recent court ruling which struck down our rights to a day of national prayer.

SIGN HERE —>The Declaration For Prayer-Petition

Please take 3 minutes right now by clicking the above link and adding your name to the DECLARATION FOR PRAYER petition and forward this email to as many Christians as possible.

Monday, April 19, 2010

National Day of Prayer

For more information, CLICK HERE.

National Day of Prayer Under Attack

Sadly, prayer is on the line again according to a federal district court in Wisconsin, where a judge has ruled in favor of an atheist organization - declaring the National Day of Prayer UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

This lawsuit is yet another twisted legal attempt to remove prayer from public life. It is yet another attempt to cause time-honored tradition to be trampled by those seeking to destroy religious liberty.

I don't see the crisis here. A day set aside for prayer for our country is a longstanding tradition. It's a day of recognizing prayer. No one is COMPELLED to take part.

Such observances not only reflect our nation's rich history, but are also consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

How long will Christians be pushed back? Will this attack continue in America until the end of time?

I don't think this time-honored American tradition should come to an end. America should not be offended by our heritage. And, Christians should preserve our religious freedoms.

If you want to do more, join the COMMITTEE TO PROTECT THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER - it will be represented in the amicus brief being preparing to file in this case.

And be sure to use the website's forward-to-friend tool to encourage your friends and family to join as well.

Sunday, April 4, 2010