Father and Lord,
All glory unto You, the Merciful One.
If it had not been for You, the Sovereign One,
We would have perished long ago.
How many have risen against us!
And each time, You’ve seen us through,
Not by the merits of our actions,
But to the glory of Your holy name.
We would have been swallowed up,
By enemies in war or catastrophe in peace.
Yet You alone have kept us whole,
And we praise You for Your bountiful grace.
We bring before You, Lord, today a special kind of request —
A prayer for unity in the middle of much distress.
We pray for our divided states, hearts, and minds.
Humility has escaped us, Lord; wisdom is scarce.
To whom shall we turn?
None can deliver. None but You.
We praise You and give You thanks,
For You have not given us over to ourselves just yet.
A remnant remains: praying, sharing, loving, fighting …
Pleading with You to intervene
In our hearts and in our land.
Our hope is in You.
Those who hope in You will not be put to shame,
This we know firsthand. Forgive us when we fail
To remember all You’ve done and
The glorious promises of Your Word.
Unite us in Your truth, Lord.
Unite us in life and love.
Lift the blinders from our eyes, and
Help us see clearly once again.
Your Word reminds us that,
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So You surround Your people.
We are Your people; in this, we are comforted.
To You we lift our eyes,
In thoughts of You, we are still and wait.
Let Your glory and Your righteous judgment
Be seen by all, on Earth as in Heaven,
The constant cry for justice in our times is tiresome and boring. Like my six-year-old’s toy train’s sounds, they were cute at first. After a few hours, they’re just insufferable. The “justice now” train is not going much farther than my son’s convoy tracking around him in circles as he plays on his knees. They, too, are not really trying to get anywhere. They’re just having fun — while annoying the rest of us.
It’s not that there are no injustices in our polity. Injustices are plain for all to see. The problem is that our response to injustices requires us to define justice in the first place. The childish, emotional reactions of today are so confused people cannot see the irony of their unjust responses to injustice.
Fighting evil with evil brings us no benefit. Who cares who wins that fight? We are left with evil either way. It is evident the Apostle Paul was right to encourage us to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, emphasis mine). That is easier said than done. Once again, the challenge of semantics, with its dispassionate demands, must be dealt with if we are to find some solutions.
However, the spirit of this age is particularly dreadful at this most needed of tasks. Having abandoned all objective standards, we find ourselves incapable of defining anything. “Justice,” “evil,” “virtue,” “sin,” what is all this but whatever you opine? Even more basic, what is “man,” “woman,” or even “human”?
The results of our willful blindness have made us insecure — fearful. And fear is the foundation of defeat.
Can you see that? Can you see that the promise of “freedom” and “equality” of those who urge us to abandon objective standards is a lie? Having tasted the rotten fruit of secularism, do you hunger for beauty and wonder, peace and benevolence, stability and truth?
If you do, I suggest you move towards reality. The reality of the human heart is a good starting point. All other things are outside of us and somewhat foreign, but we know our own hearts.
The condition of the human heart is nowhere better dissected than in the Bible. You do not have to believe in God or the inspiration of the Scriptures to see that. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” asks Jeremiah 17:9.
The picture of man’s heart in the Holy Scriptures comports with reality — what we see in ourselves and in those around us. Even the men of God — think David, Moses, or Paul — do despicable things. “[N]o one does good, not even one,” in the language of Romans 3, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (verses 12 and 23).
In this sense, no one can rightly claim the moral high ground.
But if the Scriptures rightly diagnose the human heart, why not consider its other claims? Might they not properly reflect reality, too?
There is no more important claim in Scripture than its solution to the human condition. It is surprisingly verifiable. For the Bible focuses not on philosophical or spiritual proclamations, but on a person — Jesus of Nazareth. More specifically, a real, historical, empirical event in space and time. Namely, His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead.
This Jesus is a problem. You see, his life was remarkable — exemplary, really. Every standard we can think of when it comes to “good” and “just” comes from His example. The Golden Rule, doing unto others as you would have them do to you, is His (Luke 6:31). His was the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). More profound still, He was the personification of those teachings. He lived them.
Jesus was real.
Facing this reality then, what is our response? If, as St. Augustine reminds us, justice demands “giving every man his due,” what is due Jesus? Well, we must make up our minds about Him. Is He the Son of God? He said, “I and the Father are one,” in John 10:30. And, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” in John 14:9.
If this is true, justice demands we give Jesus what is due to God. There can be no justice without Him on the throne.
But this is the very thing the spirit of this age denies: Jesus. It’s Jesus that’s most offensive. Even the abstract idea of “God” is okay, as long as we keep the title open for Muslims, Buddhists, and any others. Jesus’ exclusionary claims, on the other hand, are offensive. Dare we say, “hateful.”
Our predicament is plain to see. We have rejected the very foundations of justice and are surprised when the entire structure comes crumbling down. This is what we are seeing unravel in our streets every day to the bewilderment of all but those holding tightly to that old, ancient script long forgotten by most: The Word of God.
I just wanted to take just a moment to offer a thought about what’s going on in our country today, specifically the sad sad stories coming out of Charlottesville. You know, I don’t know about you but I was completely shocked and appalled by what transpired on Saturday – the violence and the vile, hateful talk, words that were flung against minorities and against Jewish people.
I was reminded of something that happened to me as a little girl. One day I was with my dad who was a pastor in Eastern Tennessee at the time. We were visiting with someone – someone I think we maybe didn’t know very well. During that conversation the man said something negative about interracial marriage. It’s really the first time I had maybe ever heard someone bring up this issue. When we got outside I said to my dad “what do you think about that? What he just said?” He said, “Penny, you cannot love God and hate your brother.”
I love the verse he was pointing me to. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
I just want to make this brief point: This hateful, insidious ideology coming out of the KKK, coming out of the neo-Nazis, and these white supremacist groups is antithetical to Christianity. In fact, the Bible gives us the absolute opposite view. Galatians 3:28 says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
You see, together at the foot of the cross there is complete equality. We are all one in Christ. And anyone who does not see that, who does not believe that, cannot have Christ in them. So I would ask you today to join in prayer for people around this country, that we can unite in Christ, and that we can unite in truth and love and goodness. We must be very clear in our beliefs and defend what the Bible says on love and what really unites us.
Today at the U.S. Supreme Court, as was the case during oral arguments, no one showed up to support the state of Missouri in the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer religious liberty case. Concerned Women for America (CWA) was at the courthouse steps early, anticipating a big victory for religious freedom. And we were not disappointed.
The Court held that the state’s policy of denying religious groups an otherwise available public benefit, solely based on their religious affiliation, violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Court said, “[D]enying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”
This is a big win for religious liberty and for all Americans, regardless of their religious views.
The facts of the case were simple. Missouri denied Trinity Lutheran a grant to install playground surfaces made from recycled tires to promote children’s safety, solely because the school was affiliated with a church. The school had submitted an application to compete for the grant based completely on merit and was found to be in the top 5 out of 44. Yet, Missouri denied the application stating Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution.
The Court saw straight through the state’s policy and noted the choice they were putting before Trinity Lutheran: “It may participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution.”
The Court noted that Trinity Lutheran did not seek an entitlement to a subsidy but merely the opportunity to compete on the same level playing field as everyone else. It noted: “The express discrimination against religious exercise here is not the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the Church — solely because it is a church — to compete with secular organizations for a grant.”
Chief Justice John Roberts — joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — wrote the majority opinion which said, “It has remained a fundamental principle of this Court’s free exercise jurisprudence that laws imposing ‘special disabilities on the basis of . . . religious status’ trigger the strictest scrutiny.”
On this, the state failed miserably. The Court noted it “offer[ed] nothing more than Missouri’s preference for skating as far as possible from religious establishment concerns.” And it concluded that, “In the face of the clear infringement on free exercise before the Court, that interest cannot qualify as compelling.”
The Court said its decision was plainly compelled by precedent which said that, “To condition the availability of benefits . . . upon [a recipient’s] willingness to . . . surrender his religiously impelled [status] effectively penalizes the free exercise of his constitutional liberties.”
It also emphasized that, “the Free Exercise Clause protects against ‘indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.’”
Justices Thomas and Gorsuch wrote separate, concurring opinions expressing an even broader application of the First Amendment that should encourage defenders of religious freedom going forward. Those who, like CWA, supported Justice Gorsuch’s strong religious liberty record, should be proud of his clear thinking. He wrote separately because he, “worr[ies] that some might mistakenly read [a limiting footnote in the majority opinion] to suggest that only ‘playground resurfacing’ cases, or only those with some association with children’s safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy, are governed by the Court’s opinion.”
But as noted above, this was not a “conservative opinion” that would give the enemies of religious freedom any reason to object. The opinion was joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, both from the liberal wing of the Court.
Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed themselves to be so radical in their jurisprudence that they would have upheld Missouri’s hostility toward religious people. It bears mentioning that they stand all alone in their assessment, as even the state of Missouri had reversed course, even before the case was over, and allowed the school to compete.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialism enjoyed surprising popularity in the last presidential election. This is disturbing to any student of history, given the overwhelming evidence of oppression that follows the implementation of that treacherous philosophy anywhere in the world.
That explains, in part, his popularity with young people, who are unfortunately and increasingly unaware of the perils of socialism and communism throughout history.
But I hope these young people got a chance to see what Sen. Sanders’ insidious philosophy leads to, as he shamefully attacked Russell T. Vought, who is nominated to be the next deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, for his Christian faith.
Sen. Sanders said, “You wrote, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ His Son and they stand condemned.’ Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?”
As Mr. Vought sought to humbly and patiently explain that yes, he was indeed a Christian, Sen. Sanders continued to interrupt him and press him for his “intolerance.”
At one point Sen. Sanders rudely interrupted to say with much vigor:
I understand you are a Christian, but this country is made up of people who are not just … like I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of intolerance and oppression. In Sen. Sanders’ warped, darkened mind, to believe in any religion is bigoted. To have an internal peace and assurance of what happens after death is offensive to others. Just stop and consider how pernicious that is. What difference does it make for me if someone believes in his mind that I am going to Hell?
None. Unless it is true, and then I should probably reconsider what I’m doing. But someone else’s thinking has no bearing on me.
Not in Sen. Sanders’ deviate mind. His sort of childish maliciousness was described by the famous English writer and philosopher G.K Chesterton when he said, “The homeless intellectualism of an unhappy age often uses the term [bigoted] for anybody who is sure that he is right and other people are wrong.”
This is true enough of Sen. Sanders and contemptible to be sure. But Sen. Sanders takes his personal insecurities one step further, seeking to implement them in public policy. Therefore, he condemns this nominee for his Christian faith, saying, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I really don’t.”
All because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
In Sen. Sanders’ America, no serious Christian could have a job in government, because they believe in John 3:16, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Sen. Sanders should be ashamed of himself, and all his supporters should open their eyes to the truth about him. Not to mention he should be ostracized by his colleagues.
He is no pioneer. Many communist dictators shared his crooked ways while they killed millions and oppressed their countrymen — which is why when our Founding Fathers conceived of our Constitution, they enshrined a clear guard against such imposition by radicals like Bernie Sanders.
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution concludes by saying:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Emphasis mine.)
Sen. Sanders seemed concerned with the number of Muslims in our country. He said, “I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. I really don’t know, probably a couple of million.”
What difference does it make? Perhaps Sen. Sanders thinks in those terms, in terms of voters. But Mr. Vought tried to explain the Christian view that all men, regardless of their religion, are to be respected, having been created in the image of God.
Vought started to explain before Sanders interrupted again, “As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that, as a Christian, that’s how I should treat all individuals …”
Sen. Sanders’ willful blindness ignores that the freedom and tolerance we enjoy in America were born out of Biblical soil. Because we believe in a Creator, to Whom we are accountable, we are encouraged to engage one another in conversation, persuading one another with respect and dignity as to the dictates of our faith.
Following Sen. Sanders’ bigoted ways, engagement loses its appeal (as the government demands, under the threat of law, that all beliefs are equal), and we grow divided and fearful of one another.
Bernie Sanders’ America is a dark, oppressive place that would be the death of America as a beacon of freedom, and I hope Americans, regardless of political persuasion, will unite in condemning such a hideous political philosophy.
If I were Kathy Griffin’s friend, I’d want to be by her side now. It must be tough.
Most people by now have seen the horrible picture and video. It was bad. Really, bad. She has apologized. But it won’t be easy.
I hope she has some good friends by her side at this moment. I hope she doesn’t just have enablers, saying the world is just mad, that she was hilarious and people just didn’t get it. I hope she doesn’t have only the life-drainer types that hang around celebrities so often, just looking to better themselves. Nor just the ones who want to drag her out to a party and forget all about it, just to drop her off at home in the morning to deal with herself the next day.
If I were her friend, I’d want to talk to her about who she is, her feelings and emotions, but also her purpose. I’d want to talk to her about faith. I’d want to offer my love (frail as it is, as will be explained below) and offer the only meaningful hope I have ever found in life: the love of God.
What follows is what I might say.
You are so loved, Kathy. I know it is hard to see right now with all the brouhaha over your picture. I understand. I’ve done worse. You probably have, too. God is not impressed by how much attention our failings get. He is offended by our sin just as much when nobody knows about them.
Yet He pursues us. “While we were yet sinners,” Scripture tells us, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our “fumblings” — for our many sins.
That’s how He demonstrated His love for us, according to Romans 5:8. That’s how much He loves you. Not what you have done; we must all repent of our sins. Not the personas we have created for others to see as a way of guarding our hearts to ease our loneliness and pain; He sees right through that.
He loves us. You.
It’s miraculous. It’s unbelievable. And it is truly lovely. To receive this kind of love is true liberty. Won’t you give that love a chance?
True love. It’s not like what you see between men and women. This love — this love is different.
It’s captured in 1 Corinthians 13, and there you can easily see why it seems preposterous when we use it to describe the type of love we show for one another.
My wife and I have the verse on a big painting in our living room, and I often go through it and try to put a mental check mark on the things I’ve been doing right.
First one is brutal for me. “Love is patient,” it says. Well, I’m out right off the bat. If God were as patient with me as I sometimes am with my wife and children, I would’ve been the one on that cross.
“Love is kind”? Oh boy. I mean, it’s not like I don’t try to be kind. But I fail so often that I could never put a check mark on that one. The best I can say is that I have recurring flashes of kindness. But that’s just being kind with myself, which is nothing to brag about.
Love “does not envy.” Fail. “Does not boast,” fail. “It is not proud,” [laughter that turns to tears and then turns into 15 minutes of prayer].
“It does not dishonor others.” Ok, I might put a check mark here, but truth is I’m not fully confident. Especially if we consider our past.
I hope you see that aspect of love gets at the heart of the failure of your picture.
Love “is not self-seeking,” continues the passage. I got married precisely for this. I wanted someone to make me happy. Isn’t that what everyone tells us, “You deserve someone that will make you happy”?
It’s all baloney. Trust me. But that’s another conversation. For now, just know that it is not love.
Love “is not easily angered.” We all get angry, so we just have to reckon with the “easily” part, and I have to say I’ve learned to do much better. Check mark? I hesitate. Truth is, if you catch me on the wrong day, “bye-bye” check mark.
Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” I kept a gold star on this one for a long time; I thought I did so well. Then I realized it was partly because I thought my wife did not do so well with it. That meant that I was keeping a record of her keeping a record, and there went my gold star — along with my pride.
We could go on (Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never ends), but you get the picture.
God loves you that way. In a supernatural way. Your friends and family might give up on you. They will all fail you. But God’s love still pursues you. No matter what you have done.
You are not this picture. You are not your career. You were created “in His image.” That’s where your purpose comes from. Not from fame. Not from comedy.
You were created by God for God. Could I pray for you?