Archives For United States

By Steve Playl

Declaration of Independence grunge America map flag

Picnics in the park, cookouts with families, visits to historic places, yardwork, parades down Main Street, extravagant pyrotechnic displays!

These are as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie and are appropriate ways to celebrate Independence Day. But while celebrating the Fourth and enjoying our present freedoms, may I suggest that we take a look back, then let’s look to the future.

Look back to July 4, 1776, when Thomas Jefferson, assisted by such patriarchs as Ben Franklin and John Adams, completed the final wording of the document presented to the Second Continental Congress, which evolved into the birth certificate of the United States of America.

That document, the Declaration of Independence, was eventually signed by 56 men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to secure the opportunity for an experiment in democratic government. And it led to the greatest free nation the world has ever seen.

Although the “self-evident truth that all men are created equal” was not yet understood as meaning that all human beings of both genders and all races are equal in the sight of the Creator, the document has become the capstone of freedom for all Americans.

As we celebrate our freedom, let’s remember that it came at a great cost to those who went before us — and that our freedom from sin’s penalty was paid for by our Savior with His divine sacrifice…

Although the meaning of “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” has been misrepresented at times from many different directions, those rights have been fought for, debated and paraded through the streets of this nation for more than 240 years. Some, in the name of tolerance, have insisted that their rights include forcing others to comply with their wishes. Others, insisting on their understanding of “science,” have argued against the reality of a Creator. Many have added their own desires to the list of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Still the Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest human documents ever created, and it represents a magnanimous vision for all — a “land of the free and home of the brave.”

Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his Gettysburg Address that the nation could possibly perish. That speech was made during the deadliest and most devastating war in America’s history. Many wars before and after have cost us dearly in the blood of our sons and daughters, but most of our conflicts have been with “outsiders” and America has been united in battle. The “Civil” War, on the other hand, divided our nation against itself.

Now, two hundred, two score and three years after the states united to declare independence from Great Britain, we find ourselves divided by politics, policies, power struggles, and pride. Too few of our leaders seem willing to sacrifice personal feelings and ideas for the greater good of the masses. While there will never be unanimous agreement on every conviction, surely we can agree to place far greater priority on negotiating with our fellow Americans than negotiating with our avowed enemies.

My prayer is that our precious grandchildren will grow up in an America somewhat like the one where I grew up. With all its faults, it has been the greatest nation throughout all of history.

But if that future is to become reality, more of us must return to the God of our Fathers in repentance, humility, prayer and commitment. We must again become a nation with common sense. We must use the word tolerance as something more than political rhetoric. We must again practice compassion, even while passionately defending differing points of view. And, yes, we must also stand for truth as revealed by our Creator.

As we celebrate our freedom, let’s remember that it came at a great cost to those who went before us — and, all the more, that our freedom from sin’s penalty was paid for by our Savior with His divine sacrifice on the cross, which calls for the most serious of celebrations.

Steve Playl, a retired Baptist pastor, is a chaplain at a Bristol, Tenn., hospital, a newspaper columnist and college instructor. Reprinted from Baptist Press.

Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, is the current president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This year’s National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 2.

Many Christians are so disappointed and fed up with matters about America that they struggle even to pray for our nation. Is this right? Is this justified?

Absolutely not!

And many Christians struggle to truly love one another, while many are uncertain about our future as a nation and even the future of our churches.

On the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, May 2, let’s be sure to join together in fervent prayer because:

#1: Christians need to pray for America

Where America is today is the reason we need to pray. If all was perfect and unity abounded across our nation, we may enjoy praying for America more regularly, but whether we enjoy it or not, it is needed.

Praying for America should be our first choice, not our last choice.

God is our hope — our last, great and only hope. Therefore, we need to pray like we believe this with all we are.

The alarm clock is going off in our nation and this is not the time to push the snooze button. America needs to experience the next great move of God.

That is why we pray. That is why we will prioritize praying for America on our upcoming National Day of Prayer. Will you join us?

Prayer precedes every great movement of God biblically and historically. Therefore, we need to pray and ask God for a mighty, great spiritual awakening across America. That is why the National Day of Prayer is a nationwide movement of prayer for America.

#2: Christians need to love one another

Christians need to follow Jesus’ teaching of loving one another, in obedience to Christ’s command: “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This what we are calling our nation to do on Thursday, May 2.

We need a Love One Another movement that begins in the church of Jesus Christ. Christians should never take pride in being filled with skepticism or criticism of other people. We should love all people just like Jesus did and does: willfully, sacrificially and unconditionally.

Love One Another needs to become a movement that also infiltrates every part of American life when the church is experiencing this movement within their own fellowship.

Followers of Christ need each other more than ever before. While certain secondary doctrinal differences will exist, we need to unite around our belief that:

— The Bible is God’s infallible Word; it is truth without any mixture of error.

— Jesus is the Son of God and the hope of the world; therefore, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

— We must focus our lives, churches and futures on taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.

In our confessional statement, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, we as Southern Baptists believe, “Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament” (Article 14).

We need to stop fighting over secondary issues and rise up together to become the spiritual light in this darkening America and world. The church needs to model loving one another or we forfeit our right to speak into the future of our nation. It is time to come together in unity.

#3: Prepare for the future

What will the church become in the future of America? Will we lose our freedom or have it affirmed?

We need to prepare for the future realistically, but also with great hope. Regardless of the present cultural tide that is rising in direct opposition to the ways of God, we are a Gospel people committed to Christ alone.

Our future is not in the hands of the United States government; our future is in the hands of our sovereign God. Yes, our times are in His hands!

We need to prepare future generations spiritually and vocationally for what God wants them to be and how He wants them to live for Him.

That is why I believe our greatest hope lies only in Jesus Christ, His Gospel and the advancement of this Good News message reaching every corner of America and across this world.

While we call out to God for His church to be revived by the Spirit and to love one another, resulting in coming together in unity, we need to simultaneously pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America, which is our greatest hope.

– Ronnie Floyd, reposted from Baptist Press

The Briefing

Church’s roll purge incites media ‘circus’
Cave City (Ky.) Baptist Church, some 90 miles north of Nashville, sent a letter July 16 to nearly 70 members it alleges were not attending “habitually,” giving “regularly” or sharing in the congregation’s “organized work” as required of members in the church’s bylaws. The letter stated, “Cave City Baptist Church cherishes you as a member of this fellowship,” but “your name has been removed from the membership roll,” according to a photo of the letter published on Facebook. Within two days, newspapers and television stations had reported on the letter in Nashville; Louisville, Ky.; Lexington, Ky.; and Bowling Green, Ky.

First State Dept. Ministerial on religious freedom will be ‘More than talk,’ Pompeo says
The US State Department is gearing up to host what is being described as the first-ever three-day ministerial to promote and advance religious freedom in Washington, D.C., which will be attended by delegations and leaders from over 80 countries. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expects to host nearly 40 of his counterparts from countries around the world for the event taking place from July 24 to July 26.

Adoption agency protection moves forward in Congress
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee included the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) in a spending bill it approved July 11. The proposal, H.R. 1881, would bar the federal government — as well as any state or local government that receives federal funds — from discriminating against or taking action against a child welfare agency that refuses to provide services in a way that conflicts with its religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Turkey keeps American pastor behind bars
A Turkish court ordered 50-year-old American pastor Andrew Brunson to remain behind bars until at least his next hearing Oct. 12. On July 18, the court heard testimony from members of Brunson’s church who made “vague, unsubstantiated accusations” against him. When the judge asked how Brunson would respond to the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”

Most US faith groups say country is on the wrong track
A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic shows when it comes to politics, white evangelical Christians stand apart from every other religious group. The poll found 61% of evangelicals say the United States is headed in the right direction. By comparison, 64% of the overall public — including majorities of other Christian groups — believes the country is seriously off track.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Religion News Service

The Briefing

SBC WRAP-UP: Greear, Pence, #MeToo draw SBC’s focus
At an annual meeting that saw what chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty called an “extra heavy volume of business” on its opening day, the Southern Baptist Convention elected J.D. Greear as convention president and heard an address by Vice President Mike Pence.

Local county condemns abortion, declares ‘unborn sanctuary’
The Effingham (Illinois) County Board passed a resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary for the life of unborn human beings.” It’s an issue causing an uproar among residents. The board passed the resolution Monday. It means the county is taking the stance condemning abortion, except if both mother and child are at risk.

4 in 10 LGBT Americans identify as Christian
Approximately four out of ten LGBT Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated, roughly equaling the percentage that identify as Christian, according to a new survey. A poll conducted May 24 to June 1 by BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies of 880 LGBT Americans found that 39 percent of respondents did not have a religious affiliation.

Under pressure from VP, aid is sent to Christian, Yazidi communities in Iraq
The premier U.S. aid agency is poised to send millions of dollars directly to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq under a rarely used, streamlined funding arrangement after coming under pressure from Vice President Mike Pence.

Meet the World Cup stars who love Jesus
World Cup fever will be consuming the planet for the next month. As you learn the stories of the hundreds of athletes from nearly three dozen countries, hear them talk about their faith in their own words.

Sources: Baptist Press, WCIA news, Christian Post, Washington Post, Christianity Today

hands patterned with the US flag

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer. Many of us pray for America on a regular basis, but each time this year, we are able to join together across the nation and pray together in unity.

Whether you are joining a prayer gathering for the event or praying on your own throughout the year, here are some ways you can pray for America.

1. #PRAY4UNITY in America.

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The present spiritual crisis in America is calling us to pray for and take all necessary actions to come together in our nation. God is the only One who can do this, so we call upon Him to empower us to make every effort to live in unity.

2. #PRAY4UNITY in the church of America.

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

God is calling His Church in America to unify upon the authority of the Bible and centrality of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. We must come together to make Christ known to the world by advancing the Gospel to every person in the world. Ask God for local churches to unify as one body of Christ and walk together in unity, harmony and oneness.

3. #PRAY4UNITY in the families, workplaces, communities and cities in America.

“Also, the power of God was at work in Judah to unite them to carry out the command of the king and his officials by the word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12).

God’s power upon us is the only source to unite our families, workplaces, communities and cities in America. Ask God to call families, workplaces, communities and cities to look to the only One who can unify us.

4. #PRAY4UNITY among all ethnicities and people in America.

“For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

Since each of us are made in the image of God, we bear His image regardless of the color of our skin or uniqueness of our ethnicity. Through the death of Jesus, He has torn down the wall of division among all people. In God alone, we unify and live in peace with one another, standing against all racial and ethnic division, denouncing it as sin.

5. #PRAY4UNITY for the security of our nation and for our schools, churches, and all public venues.

“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Ask God to protect our schools, churches and all public venues. Plead with God to restrain all evil and secure our nation from all enemies. Ask God to move upon our government officials to work together to secure our schools, churches and all public venues.

6. #PRAY4UNITY that we agree clearly, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America.

“They all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).

Ask God to convict the church of America to wake up spiritually, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America to occur in our generation and shape the future of America.

EDITOR’S NOTE: May 3 is the National Day of Prayer.

Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and president of the National Day of Prayer. This article first appeared at LifeWay’s Facts&Trends (factsandtrends.net).

The Briefing

EC’s Frank Page resigns over ‘personal failing’
Frank S. Page has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, effective March 27 over what is described as “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.”

Southern Baptists face tricky election—again
The 2018 election for president of the Southern Baptist Convention looks a lot like what happened in St. Louis two years ago. But one thing is different about the race between J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill—public campaigning is making a comeback.

Billy Graham’s death leads 10,000 to pray for salvation
More than 1.2 million have visited BillyGrahamMemorial.org in just a month, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The online memorial features a link to a site with a clip of Graham inviting crowds at his crusades to make a decision for Christ, followed by a list of steps to pray to accept Jesus as their Savior. More than 113,000 have visited that site, StepstoPeace.org, in the month since Graham’s death, and 10,500 indicated they prayed to either profess faith for the first time or to renew lapsed faith.

Congress passes online, anti-trafficking bill
Congress has approved legislation designed to thwart sex trafficking by holding accountable online sites that facilitate the crime. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) would amend a 1996 anti-obscenity federal law to authorize the prosecution of websites that support the sale of people in the sex trade. The proposal would clarify trafficking victims have the right to bring civil action against online sites.

America falls in world happiness rankings
According to a recent World Happiness Report, the United States dropped four spots from last year—moving from 14th place to 18th in a survey of 156 countries taken from 2015 to 2017. The rankings are based on six key areas of well-being: healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, income, and generosity. Finland took first place, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland.

Sources: Baptist Press, IB2news, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Facts and Trends

wp-adMore than 100 evangelical pastors and ministry leaders signed an open letter expressing their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order that restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspends entrance of all refugees for 120 days, and prevents all Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely. The open letter appeared as a full-page ad in the Feb. 7 issue of the Washington Post.

Two of the signatories — former Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin — told Baptist Press their signatures reflect a specific policy disagreement and not a blanket repudiation of the president’s approach to immigration.

The letter addressed to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, stated, “As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement. Our care for the oppressed and suffering is rooted in the call of Jesus to ‘love our neighbor as we love ourselves.’ In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus makes it clear that our ‘neighbor’ includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country.”

The order, suspended by a lower court, was stayed Feb. 9 by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The president has vowed to continue to the fight which is expected to be taken to the Supreme Court.

The Christian relief organization, World Vision, coordinated the letter. According to a press release from the organization, an additional “500 evangelical pastors and ministry leaders representing every state in the nation” signed the letter but their names did not appear in the ad. The release also states, “World Relief is one of nine agencies nationally authorized by the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees.”

Seven other Southern Baptists, including Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., were signatories. Stetzer first voiced his opposition to the order last month in an op-ed published by the Post Jan. 26.  The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Russell Moore was not a signatory to the letter, but wrote his own letter to the president expressing his concern, which appeared in Jan. 30 issue of the Post.

Other well-known signatories include Max Lucado, author and minister of preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX; Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; Eugene Cho, pastor at Quest Church in Seattle; Derwin Gray, lead pastor at Transformation Church, SC; and Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL.

Read the full text of the letter.

– Lisa Sergent with additional reporting by Baptist Press