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Our new President, George W. Bush...
The following is excerpted from the January 16, 2001, edition of
The Gospel Greats Weekly [e-mail] Newsletter:
"I exhort 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..." 1 Tim 2:1-2a KJV
We can count ourselves blessed to have a President who has been so uncommonly outspoken about his belief in Christ. While this is a cause for rejoicing, it is also a serious cause for concern. (I will explain shortly.)
Bush's candor about, and willingness to share his faith has been remarkable:
The morning after officially becoming President-elect, the very first thing Bush did in public was to attend a prayer meeting at a church in Austin were he sought God's blessing and guidance.
In his speech launching his Presidential campaign, Bush said, "I believe in grace because I've seen it, and peace because I've felt it, and forgiveness because I've needed it." He regards himself as a "lowly sinner" who is saved by God's grace, a concept that has humbled him.
Bush says he prays every day in all kinds of situations, and has been seen to quietly bow his head and pray before news conferences and important meetings. "I pray for guidance. I do not pray for earthly things but for heavenly things, for wisdom and patience and understanding."
Bush reads through the entire Bible every other year; he chooses relevant Scriptures during the alternate years for his daily devotions. This was also undoubtably helpful during the years he taught Sunday School.
Asked in a debate what "philosopher" he admires most, he responded, "Christ, because He has changed my heart." (He took much flak for saying that.) He continued, "When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as Savior, it changes the heart and changes your life, and that's what happened to me."
Bush's autobiography, "A Charge To Keep," takes its title from a Charles Wesley hymn, "A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify..." Those last four words go unspoken, but are apparently very much a part of Bush's philosophy, and, for those who make the connection, are enlightening.
As governor of Texas, Bush sent a memo reminding his staff that "we serve One greater than ourselves."
Will his beliefs affect what he does in office? Bush's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, says there is no question about that. He says his brother will "inspire people to act on their faith, not just to focus on one's salvation, but to define our activities and our faith in a way that will help others." It's all about "walking the talk."
Even Bush's closest associates say the faith he professes genuine, not something merely "worn on his sleeve" for attempted political gain.
But Bush's stand is also a reason for grave concern. I am certainly not a prophet, but there is no doubt he will be under the harshest fire and most stinging condemnation you have ever seen from those who don't share his faith. He will be vilified by the humanist left. Just look what the opposition is doing to attorney general nominee John Ashcroft, who has been active in leadership roles in the Assemblies of God church and, by the way, a lover of Southern Gospel music. (He sang as part of the Singing Senators quartet that appeared at the National Quartet Convention a few years ago and was heard at the time on my program.)
In fact, look at the agony Bush himself has already been put through for those 30-some days after the election when the outcome seemed in doubt. Surely only his faith could have sustained him through such a trying time. And undoubtedly his faith was strengethened by going through the fire.
But was the outcome really in doubt? My wife prayed harder about this than anything in recent times, and, when it was humanly impossible to know what the outcome would be, she awoke one morning with a peace that God knew and had everything under control. Of course. When the opposition threw everything it had against Bush, it wasn't enough. It reminded me of what the Lord told Zerubbabel, saying, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (1 Zec. 5:6.)
The bottom line?
Pray daily and fervently for our new President. Why? Well, the simple answer is because Scriptures tell us to do so, for one thing (see above). But also...
PRAY because President Bush will be the target of a merciless attack by those incensed by his Christian values.
PRAY for his protection and physical safety and that of his family.
PRAY that his strength may be renewed daily through his faith in Christ.
PRAY that God will grant him Solomon-like wisdom in leading and healing this nation and encouragement to stay the course.
PRAY that God will grant him godly counselors and associates.
PRAY that those who are incensed by his faith-based stands will be thwarted in their attempts to demean him and to twist and distort his views for their own purposes.
PRAY that our new President will, in all things, provide a godly, moral example (in stark contrast to what that office has produced the past eight years).
And PRAY that this nation will once again accept and follow such an example.
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Here are related items of interest:
Christian leaders pray for Bush
By Todd Starnes
Reprinted by permssion from Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (BP)--A group of Christian leaders and congressmen gathered Jan. 19, 2001, in the Library of Congress to encourage Christians to pray for President-elect George W. Bush and his family.
The Friday morning gathering, hosted by the Washington-based Family Research Council, featured visits from Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Colson told Baptist Press he is euphoric about the new administration. "I believe that George W. Bush has a real mandate to return moral leadership to the nation," Colson said.
"I think that President-elect Bush is going to do a great job in Washington and it's great news for evangelical Christians," he added. "We feel at home again. We have a place at the table."
Colson, who had an opportunity to speak to the president-elect on Thursday night, said he believes Bush is the right man for the job.
"He will restore moral sanity to the office," Colson told Baptist Press. "But he's going to need some help."
"If we want to see morality restored to this nation, then we must join with the president and stand up as Christians," Colson challenged the 100 guests in his remarks. "The church of Jesus needs to understand that this is an inauguration for Christians."
Dobson, too, credited the Bush election to the prayers of Christian people, noting that the atmosphere in Washington resembled the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan. The popular radio host said he likewise hopes the new president will strengthen the moral leadership of the nation.
"My advice to President-elect Bush would be to stay on your knees, sir. This is too big of a job for just a man. Be in prayer at all times," Dobson told Baptist Press, adding that he believes Bush has a heart for God.
"Thousands of people have prayed and fasted for this election," Dobson told Baptist Press. "And we've got to continue to pray for this man, that the Lord will guide him and anoint him."
Kenneth Connor, the newly installed president of the Family Research Council, said the future of the nation is bright. "The prospect for seeing positive change is here," he told the gathering.
Christian author and speaker John Trent told Baptist Press the opportunity for Christians to impact the country is now. "I would just say that we have a window of opportunity and it begins with people on their knees praying and seeking God," Trent said.
Santorum said the Bush election has raised spirits across the nation's capitol. "It feels great to have good leadership in the White House," he said.
FIRST PERSON - Religiously correct prayer: The secular left goes berserk
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Reprinted by permission from Baptist Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--As expected, the inaugural ceremonies for President George W. Bush opened and closed with prayer. Unexpectedly, the prayers have ignited controversy and unleashed a firestorm of histrionics from the secular left.
Franklin Graham, evangelist son of Billy Graham, and Kirbyjon Caldwell, a leading Houston pastor, had the temerity to pray as Christians -- even invoking the name of Jesus Christ. Are you shocked? Is this not what President Bush had in mind when inviting these persons to pray? Is this not what we should expect from two Christian ministers?
Evidently not, so far as the watchdogs of secularism and political correctness are concerned. The leading salvo came from Alan Dershowitz, the vituperative law professor from Harvard. Dershowitz was outraged by the prayers and accused the Bush administration of subverting the Constitution. There can be no "official sectarian prayer," Dershowitz avowed. "That is what the 1st Amendment is all about, the very first act by the new administration was in defiance of our Constitution."
Prayer in defiance of the Constitution? Well, rally the militia and unleash the ACLU! Can Dershowitz mean to be taken seriously? It would appear so. Furthermore, he represents a growing antagonism to all genuine religious expression in the public square.
First, let's set the record straight. The prayers offered by Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell did not constitute any state establishment of religion. They prayed as Christians ought always to pray, and their prayers followed in a proud inaugural tradition.
Given the outcry from Dershowitz and company, you might think that Jesus had never been invoked in an inaugural ceremony. This is hardly the case, as prayers in the name of Jesus have been a staple of inaugurations past -- including the inaugurations of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Billy Graham has been a participant in such ceremonies for decades, and no one is surprised when he prays in Jesus' name.
The sad fact is that for some time the secular left has been attempting to eradicate all genuine religious expression from public life. According to the legislators of political correctness, it is allowable only to offer "non-sectarian" prayers. Of course, a nonsectarian prayer is not a prayer at all.
Several years ago, the National Conference of Christians and Jews (in keeping with their desire to be nonsectarian, the group is now known only as "The National Conference") suggested guidelines for praying in public. Such opportunities call for general prayers, according to the guidelines, and allow "persons of different faiths to give assent to what is said."
Accordingly, there is no mention of any God in particular. The group suggested alternatives like, "Our Maker" or "Source of Being." Suggested closing phrases included "Hear our Prayer" or "May Goodness Flourish." To that we would suggest, "You must be kidding."
These suggestions are an equal insult to all religions. A Christian ought to pray as a Christian, whether in public or private. The same is true for Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarians or any others. Prayer to a general deity is an offense to faith, and calls for "non-sectarian" prayers betray a misunderstanding of prayer itself.
Professor Dershowitz holds to a rather extreme view of the Constitution, but to a downright bizarre view of prayer. Does he really believe that a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim and a Buddhist can join together in the same prayer? The Buddhist does not even believe in a personal deity.
Dershowitz's fervor on this issue is especially perplexing, given the fact that he identifies as a Jew by tradition, but as an agnostic in belief. What kind of prayer would complement his agnosticism? Perhaps a prayer to the non-existent God.
A Christian minister who prays non-Christian prayers betrays the gospel. A Jew should be expected to pray as a Jew, and a Muslim as a Muslim. The same is true for all religions and their believers. This is the true promise of the First Amendment and the true fulfillment of religious liberty.
The Constitution guarantees freedom to exercise religion -- not to hide behind a mask of generic religiosity. As former Sen. John Danforth once stated, authentic prayer "is almost by definition sectarian prayer."
This can be a hard pill to swallow. Those offended by hearing the prayers of other religions had better get used to it. Freedom for Christians to pray Christian prayers is also freedom for Muslims, Buddhists, Sihks and all others to pray in accordance with their own beliefs. Anything less is sham religion and hollow constitutional promises.
William Willimon, dean of the chapel at Duke University, once commented that he tried for a time to pray non-sectarian prayers, but he stopped this experiment when a student told him that he "sounded less like a Christian minister and more like a crew member on the starship Enterprise."
The secular left is never bothered by New Age prayers to the "Force" or "Source." They erupt only when a sincere believer of a particular faith prays a particular prayer in his or her particular way -- and in public, of all things.
If Alan Dershowitz and his band of secular ideologues have their way, the public square will be swept clean of authentic religious expression. When that happens, we haven't a prayer.
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