A Prayer for the USA and Its Upcoming Election

Almighty and Most-merciful God,

You have given us the United States of America as our heritage.  Make us always remember your generosity toward us.  Bless us with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

We come from many nations with many different languages.  Make us a people united under a culture that honors you above all else.  When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.
Bless the courts and the magistrates in our land.  Give them wisdom and understanding, that they may perceive the truth and administer the law impartially as instruments of your divine will. 

Grant that we as a nation would turn to you from our many sins, especially the scourge of abortion, that your glory might be displayed for those in other nations to see.  Let our sexuality no longer be a source of sin.  Let the rest of the world glorify your name because of what they see in our marriages and in our chaste, single brothers and sisters.

Under your law we live, great God, and by your will we govern ourselves.  Help us as good citizens to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours, so that without partisan anger, we may work out issues that divide us, and elect candidates to serve the common welfare.  Save us from violence in our behavior and arrogance in our views. 

Grant us divine wisdom and care as we choose the candidates that we believe to be the best.    Let our elections be free of voter fraud from any and all who would perpetuate that injustice.  Guide voters with your invisible hand of providence to choose great leaders for our nation in this time of horrible war and true national crisis. 

In your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of peril.  Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and save.  May leaders hold to your wisdom as expressed in The Bible; may they search your will and see it clearly.  Help them remember that they are called to serve the people as lovers of truth and justice.    

Give us a strong regard for our history, and help us to not lose sight of the many things that our nation has done right in the past.  Grant that we would hold up the form of government that has served us so well for so long.  Do not let this great experiment in representative democracy change into something that would not honor you.  Protect us from misuse of political power by any side.

O God, grant that The Holy Spirit may so move in every human heart, that the barriers which divide us may crumble, the suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease.  Grant that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace.  Protect us from the fears and anxieties we are so prone to in this election season.   

Be with your servants who make art and music that we may express the joys we have in Christ and the laments we cry from living in this sinful world.  Grant us a strong Christian culture.  Let the heart of this nation sing praise to your name once again.
Defend our freedoms, especially our freedom of religion.  Let all citizens live out their faith or lack thereof in public life without fear of persecution for the beliefs they hold. 

Let Christian believers go forward without fear of poverty, derision, or even death in order to glorify your great name in our culture and under those laws which are just in your sight.  Strengthen those who may stand firm in the faith in the face of unjust laws.  Encourage the fainthearted, and help those who fail to try again in your mighty spiritual power.  Restrain the attacks of Satan and his demons against our country that our light may shine as a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. 

Answer our prayers according to what is best for us, in the name of Jesus Christ who is both Lord of this world and our Savior, Amen. 

(Adapted from prayers in The Book of Common Worship of the PCUSA.)


Andy Stanley: The Bible Told Me So

Andy Stanley has inspired the rearranging of many electrons across internet pathways in the last few days.  He said some truly troubling things in a sermon designed to encourage young people to remain in or return to the Christian faith, a noble and necessary effort.  He stated that the Christian Faith was not based on what the Bible says, but on the fact that Christ was raised from the dead.  He flatly stated that the Bible does not have to be completely true in all that it says in order for Christianity to be accepted.  According to Stanley, the Christian faith is based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles and Disciples and their interaction with Jesus Christ. 

In an effort to be charitable, Stanley is trying to reach skeptics on the basis of the historical reliability of the New Testament writings.  He points out that these documents are based on very carefully recorded eyewitness testimony, and they are basically reliable accounts of historical events like Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  All of this is true, but Stanley stops too quickly in his argument. 

Stanley follows a basic argument that I have been exposed to ever since I first read Josh McDowell, J. Gresham Machen, and R. C. Sproul.  The linear argument goes like this:

1.       The Bible is good history.  (Stanley is right with us here.)
2.       We can trust what the Bible says about Jesus because it is based on eyewitness testimony. These eyewitnesses were willing to die for their faith. (Stanley stays with us.)
3.       Jesus claimed to be God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thomas said, “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus did not correct him (John 20:26-31).  (Stanley hangs on.)
4.       Jesus worked miracles and proved Himself to be God.  (Stanley is still there.)
5.       Jesus affirmed the truth of God’s Word. He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He said, in prayer to God, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  Christ affirmed the truthfulness of the Old Testament.  (Stanley does not mention this.)
6.       Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help the apostles remember and truthfully relate the events in the Bible (John 16:13-15).  Christ affirmed the truth of the New Testament.  (Stanley doesn’t bring this up either.)
7.       We have a Bible we can believe to be completely true based on Christ’s authority and teaching.  We can trust what the Bible says. It gives us God’s truth and equips us for faith and service (2 Tim. 3:15-17).  (Here’s where Stanley ‘gets off the bus’ on this trip.)
To be repetitive, the conclusion that the Bible is true in all it says comes from the authority and teachings of Jesus Himself.  We can’t ‘wiggle out’ of that.  We can’t ‘side step’ it.  We can’t ignore it.  If what Stanley affirms to be true is in fact true, and we take a close look at the implications of those affirmations, then we have a Bible which is true in all it says by the force of logic.

But what of the skeptic who would embrace the core facts that Christianity is based on without accepting a Bible that contains no error?  I admit the theoretical possibility of a person being a Christian who does not accept the Bible to be true in all it says in the original manuscripts, to fail to do so would excludeC. S. Lewis from The Kingdom of God.  However, the greatest gathering of reformed theologians ever to get together said in The Westminster Confession of Faith:
By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.  (WCF 14.2)

Believing the Bible to be true in all it says certainly is a reasonable and logical conviction, one that should be embraced by all.  To fail to do so is problematic, and may indicate a heart not yet converted to Christ. 

We should pray for Stanley, but we must be both charitable and firm in our reactions.  He is on dangerous ground.

[It is beyond the scope of this post to address all of the issues Stanley brings up in the sermon.  Please see the posts under the search label “The Argument from Scripture” at the right for the answers to many of them.]

Addendum (10/4/2016):

Andy Stanley has issued some clarifying statements here as of 9/30/16.  In his follow up article, he affirms inerrancy (the idea that the Bible is true in everything it teaches).  That is great.  He even talks about his interaction with Dr. Norman L. Geisler, a champion of inerrancy whose work has been of great benefit to me.  Stanley affirms 5, 6, and 7 above.

But the follow up article is still troubling.  He goes into great detail about the reasons he communicated the way he did in the original sermon.  He wants to reach those whose faith in the inerrancy of the Bible has been shaken or lost.  Again, this is a noble effort.

The problem is that he runs the risk of being a bit disingenuous.  If the Bible is true in all it says, and that logically flows from the first four items that Stanley affirms above (1-4), then we are hiding something from the unbeliever we are trying to reach with Stanley’s approach.  We are hiding the fact that the affirmation of the first four items logically necessitates that Bible is true in all it says.  We are doing that in order to reach an unbeliever with the gospel.

If I was persuaded of the truth of The Christian Faith by this approach, then I would feel like I had experienced a ‘bait and switch’ when I found out the rest of the story.


To My Classmates

“(Thirty) years now, Where’d they go.
(Thirty) years … I don’t know.
I sit and I wonder sometimes, where they’ve gone.”
-          With apologies to Bob Seger’s song “Like a Rock”

I write this the night I attended my thirty-year class reunion.  It was good to see so many of my friends; to hear of their joys and pains; and to know they care about me after so long.

Many spoke of the good things that have transpired after thirty years: marriages that have lasted, educations that have paid off, businesses bought and sold, the pride of military service, the honor in completing ‘a good day’s work’ for year after year, and the overwhelming joys of children and grand-children.  But, O, the bad things: the aches and pains of growing older, divorce, the rigors of military service for ourselves and our children;  friends, parents, and family separated by death; cancer and illness, car wrecks, and the overwhelming sorrow felt for wayward or sick children.  A few of these things I have experienced myself.

The pain can be overwhelming at times, it can all seem so meaningless; the suffering we experience because others sin against us and, oftentimes even worse, the shame we experience because we know our sins have made others suffer.  Well did the writer of The Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes say of life “under the sun” that it is “Vanity of vanities…vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

But my outlook is brightened, and anyone else’s can be too.  You see, I am a Christian.  I am a Christian for many reasons, many of which are written about on this blog

One of them is that I know Christianity to be true.  Christianity explains the world I find myself in better than any other way of seeing things that I have found, and I have searched many different views in the books I have read and the conversations I have had.   Christianity is true, and, as Steve Brown says, “Once you’ve seen truth, you can’t un-see it.”

But there is another reason I am a Christian.  All of this “vanity and vexation of spirit,” all of these “toils after the wind,” have meaning when you are a Christian.  “In all things God works for the good ofthose who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  He turns pain and suffering into something meaningful, something that has a purpose because it is a part of his plan.

Even sinners like us, forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross, are perfectly loved and accepted by God.  That same writer of Ecclesiastes wrote of this when he said, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merryheart, for God has already approved what you do.” 

My high school friends should have the best.  I want them to know that God truly does love them, and that he offers a wonderful plan for their lives. 

We can see who Jesus is and trust what he did to pay the penalty for our sins.  We can turn to Jesus from, not just our sins, but from trying to do better or to do more so that God will accept us. 

We turn for our efforts because we know that the good things we do are from impure motives, and, besides, how could what we do now possibly make up for what we have done in the past?  If we do what is good now, aren’t we just doing what we should have done anyway?  How can what was required earn extra favor to make up for what we have done before? 

When we know and do these things, often called faith and repentance, we can rest assured that God loves and accepts us.  That is my desire for my classmates.  I pray that God will grant me my desire.

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