Category Archives: Prayer

Will You Pray for Our Nation, Today?

Today is the day our President, Donald J. Trump, is calling all Americans to pray. One might find reasons to question the efficacy of those prayers, but one thing is true if nothing else is: humbling our knees before a Holy God is never a bad thing.

Today, when pride and hate are the words of the day, let this national day of prayer be a time to collectively humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and show compassion on others as we pray for the Lord to stay this pandemic.

I am very grateful to our President for admitting that we are not gods, only humans in need of help from our Creator. Even though salvation is found in Christ alone, a humbled heart is much more likely to receive forgiveness and restoration than a heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. Even if many of those who pray will not pray to the God of the Bible, at least a humble nation is less likely to suffer immediate judgment.

Will you pray today? I am going to.

Thank you for your leadership, Mr. President.

Proclamation on the National Day of Prayer for all Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts

In our times of greatest need, Americans have always turned to prayer to help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty.  As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are unable to gather in their churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship.  But in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones.  I ask you to join me in a day of prayer for all people who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our Nation.

As your President, I ask you to pray for the health and well-being of your fellow Americans and to remember that no problem is too big for God to handle.  We should all take to heart the holy words found in 1 Peter 5:7:  “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.

On Friday, I declared a national emergency and took other bold actions to help deploy the full power of the Federal Government to assist with efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  I now encourage all Americans to pray for those on the front lines of the response, especially our Nation’s outstanding medical professionals and public health officials who are working tirelessly to protect all of us from the coronavirus and treat patients who are infected; all of our courageous first responders, National Guard, and dedicated individuals who are working to ensure the health and safety of our communities; and our Federal, State, and local leaders.  We are confident that He will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country.  As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91:  “He is my refuge and my fortress:  my God; in him will I trust.”

As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help.  Luke 1:37 promises that “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” and those words are just as true today as they have ever been.  As one Nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.  May God bless each of you, and may God bless the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 15, 2020, as a National Day of Prayer for All Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts.  I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers for all those affected, including people who have suffered harm or lost loved ones.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-day-prayer-americans-affected-coronavirus-pandemic-national-response-efforts/?utm_source=link

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The Birthing of an 8 Year-Old: A Proper Time to Use the “Sinner’s Prayer”?

Last night I was blessed with the wonderful privilege of holding hands with an 8 year-old boy and his mother as he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior! It was awesome!

The “sinner’s prayer” was involved, though. Was this a problem?

Let me describe what happened, then let’s talk about it.


It was Wednesday night, and that’s when the youth meet downstairs and the adults meet in the main sanctuary for prayer and discussion of Scripture (we are currently going through the book of Proverbs a chapter each week). After I had already gotten started, the mother and her son came in and sat in the auditorium. Frankly, I thought it was odd that they both came in…maybe he got in trouble, or something?

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, people standing, hat, child and outdoor

Jhett and his mom, Cara, at a rodeo. It runs in his family.

Well, it was only after the meeting was finished that Cara and Jhett (Yeah, that’s his name. Cool, huh?), a young rodeo star in his own right (he’s a champion mutton rider!), walked up to me and wanted to talk.

“Jhett has something he wants to ask you,” his mother, Cara, said.

“Oh, really?” I responded. “What is it you want to talk about?”

Then, with a nervous voice, he looked up and said, “I want to be baptized.”

I said, “Oh! Well, let’s sit down and talk about it.”

I had to make sure what was going on, so we then sat down on the steps in front of the stage. I needed to know, first of all, if Jhett knew what baptism was and why it was important. I needed to know if he was even born again.

After some simple discussion, it became clear to me that Jhett had never actually become a Christian by repenting of his sin and giving his life to Jesus. If he had, he didn’t remember. However, it also became clear that he associated baptism with giving one’s life to Christ, so all I felt was needed was clarification and a little instruction.

Some people rightfully worry about false conversions when it comes to children. I’m one of them. The last thing I will ever do is preach a sermon to a bunch of children and make a blanket plea for “all who want to go to heaven come forward.”

Another thing I am very hesitant to do is ask a child to pray the “sinner’s prayer” with me.

Now, wait a minute! Haven’t I written a strong defense of the “sinner’s prayer”? Yes, I have! As a matter of fact, my dad led me through the prayer, helping me say what needed to be said, when I was only 6 years old (Sept. 27, 1973 – a Wednesday night). Why, then, would I be hesitant to lead another child through the “sinner’s prayer”?

Simple: I need to know that what they are doing is genuine and not coerced.

So, last night I explained to this wonderful young man what it meant to be a sinner, what sin was, and what God thought of it. I explained the first half of Romans 3:23, to which he responded with a look of shock. Then I told him about the “gift of God” and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

After first explaining everything in the most elementary way possible, then after asking if he understood, Jhett nodded in approval. He understood that he was NOT saved and WAS lost. He understood that he needed to be SAVED before being baptized. And when I asked if he wanted to pray to make Jesus “boss” of his life and trust Him with his soul forever, he said, “Yes.”

Why am I writing all of this? It’s important you see where I had to make an informed, wise decision where others may have either rescheduled with Jhett, or excitedly moved forward without any hesitation.

When it comes to adults, especially, I am a firm believer in: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).  If a person is unwilling to publicly profess his/her faith in Jesus, then I highly doubt their conversion.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:32-33

Therefore, I had to pause for a second after I initially prayed with the boy. The first time we prayed, I asked him to pray to God in his own words something similar to a prayer that I would say. It was a “sinner’s prayer.” But when I was done, and Cara asked him if/what he prayed, he looked a little embarrassed and shook his head. I could tell he was nervous.

His sisters had come in and were sitting on the front row, watching with expectation. That probably didn’t help.

I then asked him something like, “Why don’t you do this…why don’t you go ahead and talk to God, just like we’re talking now, and tell him you are a sinner, ask for His forgiveness, and ask Jesus to take control of your life?” He balked at the idea.

(His mom nicely and wisely asked the girls to leave the room for a few minutes.)

“Can you pray to Jesus, Jhett?” his mom asked. With a frown and a shake of his head, he replied, “I’m too nervous.”

  • Did he not want to be saved?
  • Were we pressuring him into a false conversion?

These were questions that I had to consider at this point, and doing the wrong thing could be catastrophic.

I then asked, “Would you like for me to pray aloud and say the words so that you can follow along?” His eyes lifted.

“Would that be OK?” Cara asked. He nodded with a smile.

“Then let’s pray,” I said. “And let’s all hold hands.”

Why did I go forward with the “sinner’s prayer”? Because, as I discerned, I had not made an emotional, manipulative call for Jhett to come forward to accept Jesus – he came of his own free will. Even though his understanding of baptism was initially mistaken, the fact that he wanted to be saved, even though he was confused about the process, was evident and his desire was genuine, not coerced.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with using the “sinner’s prayer” as a tool to help someone who is already being drawn by the Holy Spirit unto Christ. I do think it’s important, however, that we use discretion when praying with children.

Now let’s go fill up that baptistery!


(My thanks to Cara and Jhett for letting me tell this story. Oh, and we may also have an up-and-coming “preacher” in the midst 🙂 )

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Filed under baptist, Prayer, salvation, Southern Baptist, Theology

The Fatherly Voice Has Lung Cancer

1991, UTC

I can still see that green Datsun station wagon my dad used to drive. It was a beat up, light-metallic green B210, I believe. I don’t remember what year model. But it had tan cloth seat covers and a 5-speed, and you couldn’t kill it.

One day, when for whatever reason my own car wasn’t running, my dad got up early (or stayed up late – he worked 3rd shift) and waited in a gravel parking lot just outside of the building where I was attending a class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It was 1991.

I walked up to the car, opened the passenger-side door, and there was my dad … blue work pants, a light-colored shirt, jacket, and ball cap … sitting with the seat leaned slightly back, bill of his cap resting over his eyes, listening to someone on the radio (WGOW, 1150AM).

That person was Rush Limbaugh.

June, 1991

In June of 1991 my dad died of a heart attack at age 46. There were no goodbyes, see-you-laters, or even warnings; he was just gone. It’s a whole other story, but the last words I ever heard him speak to me, or anyone, were, “Boy! I don’t EVER want to see you do that again! (slight pause) But that was a good burnout.” I then pulled away in my blue ’77 280z and never saw him alive again.

Wow, this is painful to write.

Sometime later, maybe in June, maybe a little after, I was scrolling through stations on the radio (why on AM radio, I don’t know), and heard the voice of Rush Limbaugh once again. I wasn’t much into politics at that time, so the subject matter didn’t catch my attention. It was just the voice, the one my dad was listening to, that made me stop turning the dial.

From that day until now, some 29 years later, I’ve been a faithful listener (whenever I could) to Rush Limbaugh, the most influential conservative radio personality in history. What’s more, with my father no longer in my life, tuning in to Rush each week day from noon till 3 was like having my dad in the car beside me. In a way, Rush Limbaugh (flaws and all) became a surrogate father figure to me.

Feb. 3, 2020

Here I am, sitting in my office at the church, struggling with some deep-seated emotions. My chest is heavy. I sorta feel a burning in my eyes, but no tears have swelled to cool them. A little while ago my wife called my on my cell phone and started off with the following words: “I don’t want to ruin your day, but…”

I have lived long enough to know that when my wife says something like that it usually has something to do with the kids or a bill that didn’t get paid. I literally had no way to be prepared for what she said next.

“Rush Limbaugh just announced that he has advanced lung cancer.”

That loneliness when my daddy died … that feeling that sucker punched me in the gut when my mother, tears in her eyes, greeted me at the hospital with a clear plastic baggie full of my father’s final effects and said, “This is all I have left” …  yeah, that kind of feeling hit me all over again, except this time I’m a little more calloused, so it doesn’t hurt as bad.

The Announcement

I don’t know what you think about the man, but he needs your prayers. I’ve prayed for him for years, actually, hoping that one day there would be proof, some evidence of him becoming a follower of Christ. His brother, David Limbaugh, after all, is a solid and out-spoken Christian lawyer, apologist, and author. Maybe my prayers were answered, today.

This afternoon, in the last segment of the Rush Limbaugh Radio Program, Rush let everyone know what was going on. Thankfully, since I am not a premium subscriber to his website and not able to watch the video of the show, the video of the last hour of the show was made available on YouTube.

If you’ve never listened to Rush, take advantage of this and listen to the whole hour – you might be surprised at what you hear. But if you want to get straight to the announcement (including a cryptic admission of his personal faith), go to the 45:46 mark and start watching there.

God speed, Rush. I’m praying for you.

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Filed under current events, Life/Death, politics, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

A Daddy’s Prayer

Dear Lord,

She’s no longer the baby I could hold in my arms. If I hold her these days, it’s a quick hug, a slight embrace. Gone are the days when she would put her head on my chest and fall to sleep, completely trusting in me to protect and provide.

But now I pray she’d seek your embrace, your protection, provision, and peace in Your rest.

An evil lurks around each corner, in the valley where death hides in the shadows. No longer there, I can’t be her guide. If You are not her Shepherd, the shadows will prevail.

Watch over her as only You can do. Guide her, with pain, if necessary, to the prize at the end of her race. I’ll be in the stands cheering.

Amen

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Standing In the Gap

The Reenactment

Last week I got to see the reenactment of the occupation of Sandersville, Georgia. It was the 155th anniversary of the battle that left a few dead (not like the 10’s of thousands in other battles), a courthouse burned, and a citizenry who was thankful it didn’t turn out much worse.

In November of 1863, General William T. Sherman and the Union army marched into the Sandersville area, just 10 miles or so south of where I sit right now. A skirmish broke out between some of the advance Union cavalry and the Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler. This led to more fighting and a near-disastrous misunderstanding.

Below is a video I made of the reenactment in the Sandersville town square.

General Sherman (the “march to the sea” Sherman who’s tactics embodied the term “scorched earth”) thought it had been the citizens of the town who’d fired upon the Union troops, and he was furious. He didn’t know it was Confederate soldiers. Therefore, after entering the city, he intended to burn it to the ground.

That was when the Rev. James Anthony, a Methodist pastor, went to General Sherman to beg for the city to be spared.

Changed Feelings

Before I get back into the history of the battle and the main point I want to share, I must tell you about what I felt while videoing the reenactment.

If it had been 20 or 30 years ago, maybe even only 10, I would have watched this display of musketry and role playing as “totally cool!” I mean, you’re talking to a guy who “played army” all of his young years, up into his teens. Seeing all that action, especially that close, would have been awesome.

Yet, as I stood there on the curb letting my imagination get into the act, I was surprised by my sense of sorrow, of fear, and the tears that began swelling up in the bottom of my eyes. From the moment the two horsemen rode into town warning of the impending and unstoppable invasion, to the point where men and boys were point-blank shooting at each other right in front of me, my heart sank.

There was nothing “cool” about this at all; it was utterly sad.

So “country” even the Confederates eat here 🙂

After it was all over, a deacon from our church saw me and invited me to have some tea (sweet, of course) in the little buffet right behind where I had been standing. Sitting there in the restaurant, the surreal scene of muskets lining the walls and “wounded” Confederates eating fried chicken, we talked about what we had seen.

He had felt the same way I did.

He had been standing down around the corner (where the video ended), and he said that when they came around and started shooting at “our boys,” he couldn’t help but shed a tear. He said, “This really happened.”

Back to the Story

So, upon hearing that General Sherman was going to burn Sandersville, Rev. Anthony went to Sherman to beg for the town. He finally convinced him that it wasn’t the people who fired on the troops, but opposing forces that had already fled.

When Sherman heard that Rev. Anthony had also been kind to a wounded Union officer and kept him from being executed, he accepted the pastor’s request and spared all but the courthouse and other government buildings. Sandersville survived because of the brave actions of a pastor who put his own well-being on the line.

To the Point

There’s a lot more to the story of Rev. James Anthony and his conversation with General Sherman. You can read about it by simply Googling his name. But as I stood there in the city square and heard the reenactment of the conversation between Sherman and Anthony, I could not escape the similarity between the Reverend’s name and mine.

I couldn’t escape the following passage that has been a “life verse” of mine for decades:

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. – Ezekiel 22:30

If only more pastors would stand in the gap!

If faced with an invading army, would I have the courage to risk everything, stand face-to-face with the conquering General, and beg for the lives of my people as Rev. James Anthony did?

Do I not have that opportunity even now?

But on my knees?

It’s war, and it’s really happening. 

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Filed under America, Church, General Observations, Life/Death, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

Let’s Skip the Platt-itudes

The Prayer

By now you’ve probably seen where President Trump made an unannounced visit to McLean Bible Church where the pastor, Dr. David Platt, prayed for him.

You can read for yourself how that Platt and his church were only notified moments before the President was to arrive, so it wasn’t a planned event in order to garner attention. I don’t believe that it was even something that Trump planned on becoming so viral, especially since he showed up with a totally different hair style.

But the prayer, oh my goodness, was a powerful and heartfelt, biblically-sound intercession on behalf of the most powerful leader in the free world. Platt did exactly what any pastor should have done – any Christian, for that matter – with grace and respect.

Click here to watch the prayer and read Dr. Platt’s response to the protesters in his congregation. https://www.mcleanbible.org/prayer-president

The Protests

But not minutes after David Platt prayed, members of his own church – snowflakes resting gently in the auditorium – began to express their disapproval and hurt that their beloved and respected pastor would dare go to God on behalf of (ugh!) The President of the United States.

Yes, even after a God-honoring prayer, along with a calm and clear explanation of what was going on, Platt was hit with protests over what he did. How in the name of all that’s holy is that even possible? . . . If, that is, the members who complained were biblically literate at ALL??

I exhort [that means it’s highly encouraged] therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority [that would include a president]; [Why?] that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

What is there in the above passage that allows for a person NOT to pray for the President? To NOT do so would be to disobey a clear imperative!

The “Apology”

Look, I’ve never been the biggest fan of David Platt, but I am not a hater, either. I greatly respect the man and what he’s accomplished for the Lord and His Kingdom. Therefore, I want to tread very carefully as I write what I’m feeling.

If we take a look at the letter Platt sent out to his congregation at McLean Bible Church, it was a gracious, mature, loving attempt to calm any conflict and keep unity within a politically diverse environment. Believe me, I get it.

However, it’s that one itty-bitty line from his explanation (and not necessarily an apology) that rubs many of us the wrong way…

“I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.”

Based on what I see clearly defined in Scripture, what on earth could be a “valid reason” for being hurt?

IF it had been me – and it wasn’t – I’d probably been shaking in my shoes being on stage with the President. That’s the first thing. But secondly, IF that had been me, and if I’d had the opportunity to pray for Trump, and if I’d gotten complaints for doing so, I’d likely given my own, genuine apology – yes, an apology – to the congregation, and it would have gone something like this…

“Dear brothers and sisters, some of you have expressed hurt that I prayed for the President of the United States of America this morning. Because of your hatred of the man, you could not reconcile your political ideology with the clear commands of God outlined in His divinely-inspired Word. It was either that, or you simply did not understand that 1 Timothy 2:1-4 applied to anyone but Nero, the man who actually used to burn people like us in order to light the streets of Rome. Therefore, I want to apologize to you for evidently not teaching you the whole counsel of God and leaving you with a deficient understanding of Scripture which has left you with hurt feelings at this time.”

Of course, this is probably why I don’t pastor a church like Platt’s. I’m not much for platitudes these days.

 

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Filed under America, politics, Prayer

Sri Lanka Weeps

The Christians in Sri Lanka weep as they mourn the loss of hundreds of precious lives, and pray for the wounded numbering in the hundreds more.

We weep with them. We mourn with them. We pray for the wounded.

But we rejoice in that the victory has already been won . . . The church will not be defeated . . . Jesus Christ has risen!

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! – Psalm 30:5

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