Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State of the Union

I have not yet heard President Obama's speech to the nation, but I will listen to it. Before I do, however, let me register my concerns from my small corner of the world in Amador County.

1. The decisions made enlarging the parameters for abortion through the rescinding of legislation under former President Bush is heart-rending. More innocent babies will die and this flagrant violation of the sanctity of life buries our nation deeper in our overt rebellion against God.

2. The President's waffling on the "same sex" marriage issue, which has been soundly voted down by voters in every state where the subject has been presented for adoption, is an unsettling concern in the wake of his protestations of authentic Christian faith which are unequivocally anchored in a commitment to traditional marriage.

3. The decision to send more troops to Afghanistan I reluctantly applaud. None of us--even the most hawkish--welcome war. However, there are times when we are called to stand up for the safety and security of our country. Terroristic threats are real and valid; terrorism on a global scale has not diminished; it continues to accelerate at an alarming rate.

4. The attempts to launch a national health care program are laudable, though the process has been laughable. We need more affordable health care and we need to make it more available through cost effectiveness. To think we as a nation could strap the anticipated exorbitant costs on the back of middle Americans--who already are struggling in a depressed economy--is foolhardy and the recent election results in Massachusetts confirm that.

5. The concern for clean air is a genuine one. The recent Copenhagen Conference on the heels of the revelations that global warming adovcates had doctored the results of their failed research to make their case more acceptable only served to heighten the conflict of suspicions about the validity of scientific research--the "stronghold" of environmental protectionists. We need to protect our water and preserve clean air, but let's do it with integrity.

6. The federal "stimulus package" has served to do nothing but stimulate more sketicism about government programs and government handouts. CNN's recent expose about the few jobs created by the stimulus package has been eye-opening, even from a more liberal news mindset.

7. Unemployment figures are high but they inadequately reflect the total number of people who are unemployed, those who have given up looking for employment and others who are now woefully under-employed. The sugegstion that 20% may be a more accurate reflection of this group should be mind-boggling to us--1 out of 5!

8. The President has sought to replace hard-handed diplomacy with a kinder and more open dialogue with countries like Iran and North Korea. Though I don't think we should be deceived by the tone of their conversations, I do believe there is value in coming to the proverbial table to talk.

9. I am impressed that President Obama has admitted failure; in doing so, he has reminded us he is a human being, without any magical and messianic powers. Undoubtedly, there are many who thought otherwise and are now left to deal with the unhappy political vagaries of partisanship.

10. Former President Bush left office with a high disapproval rating and, though I voted for him, a high degree of personal disenchantment for me. President Obama has emerged from the "honeymoon" period of political life in the White House. His approval ratings have significantly dropped, and the former President's failures seem to have dimmed in the light of the present President's struggles.

It is not a surprise to me that the former President remarked recently in an interview, "I have not missed being in the public limelight". President Obama may rue the day he decided to run for office; it is my opinion he needs more time, and from those of us who find it easier to critique than contibute, more prayer. Who in their right mind would want to be President of the United states?!?

I am praying.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"prayer warriors"...relics of the past

We are engaged in a heavy emphasis on prayer at Grace, culminating in a week of prayer this week and an all-church prayer meeting Wednesday evening. Less than 10% of our church family signed up for a prayer slot on the calendar and we moved the prayer service into the Fellowship Hall so we won't be dwarfed by the sanctuary. Interest and participation at things designed corporately for prayer are always the lowest attended events on the church calendar...unless we serve food, too.

I don't think Grace is an anomaly in the prayer world...not that this gives me any comfort. We either don't pray because we don't think it is important, or that it even works, or, maybe, it is just hard work.

In any case, it is almost mind-boggling that prayer seems to be a last resort, even for believers in view of what many families are facing. Heavy unemployment concerns and family crises have flooded my office in recent weeks. People are hurting, but not praying as you suspect they would, and that, perhaps, the God we pray to is often considered the cuprit--for bring the calamity on, or not intervening to keep it from happening.

A key passage from my sermon last week contains these words, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you...and His incomaprably great power for us who believe..." (Ephesians 1:18,19)

Many of our seniors are what I call "prayer warriors"; they can be counted on to say to me, "I am praying for you", and I know that they are. It could be argued that they have more time to pray--and they do--but they often tell me they have learned the power there is in prayer and that it is the greatest weapon they have against the ploys of the enemy. The tragedy is that they are dying off and I wonder who will take their place.

I believe them; more importantly, I believe the Word of God which calls us to prayer and invites us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". (Hebrews 4:16)

Sadly, I admit, I am not a "prayer warrior". But I am learning in these days that there is no substitute for prayer and that the proclamation that "Jesus Christ is the same eysterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), means that the God who has faithfully met my needs in the past will meet them today...and tomorrow.

That should make me want to become a "prayer warrior"...