Tag Archives: prayer

Banning Bowed Heads Is Not The Answer

“It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer. Coach Small’s conduct is unconstitutional because he endorses and promotes his religion when acting in his official capacity as a school district employee.”

Those were the words written in a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) attorney, Christopher Line. They were a direct attack on East Coweta County, GA High School football coach John Small. The complaint resulted in the School District banning all coaches and employees from: “joining hands, bowing their heads, taking a knee or committing another act that otherwise manifests approval with the students’ religious experience.”

His crime? He bowed his head while the kids led a prayer. That’s all.

There are many terrible and confusing things going on in our country today. It is sad that many people don’t feel safe at concerts, churches, and in their homes. There are real problems with terrorism, mass-shootings, and violence.

What is the solution? How will we leave this world better for our children? Stop showing respect during prayers? Really?

Yes, I know the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Is Coach Small Congress? Is he establishing a specific religion? Is he forcing others to bow their heads because he has?

Is there any serious individual who thinks that a respectfully bowed head is sending kids a bad message? As one mother responded, “What kind of leader would you rather have than somebody [who] would pray for their children, for your children, [and] for all of our children?” It just makes sense.

What if he had taken a knee in protest to their prayer? Ah, the irony!

Eventually, “every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23). Bowing our heads when someone prays is not only a sign of respect, but it just makes sense. More bowed heads would produce more “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no Law” (Galatians 5:23).

Sitting Is Killing Us…Physically and Spiritually

Sitting is killing us. No, seriously. Sitting. Of all the things out there, it turns out that simply sitting is a significant risk to our health. In fact, experts are calling sitting, “the new smoking.”

According to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, (Click for Study), researchers have tied sitting for lengthy periods to an increased risk of death in subjects who were 45 and up. Regularly sitting more than 30 minutes at a time increases risk, and 90 minutes or more doubles the risk.

Do you know how much time you sit? Probably more than you think. Previous studies based on self-reporting had people sitting ~9.5 hours/day. But when participants wore activity monitors, the results were ~12 hours out of a 16 hour waking day!

Many of us have jobs where we sit…a lot. So we exercise. But according to the study, exercise doesn’t cancel out the problem. We still need to get up every 30 minutes and have 5 minutes of walking or moving around time.

Spiritually speaking, the same principle is true. Many of us think that by praying at meals, going to church on Sunday, and occasionally reading our Bibles, we have “exercised” our faith. But short bursts of exercise are no match for movement throughout the day.

We have been fooling ourselves. The truth? Most Christians today are morbidly stationary in their faith.

So what’s the solution? Move! That’s why so many of Jesus’ commands to His disciples encouraged movement. Our default is sitting. We need to be reminded… “Wake up,” “Get up,” “Go,” “Pray,” “Carry,” “You feed them,” etc.

Of course, there are limitations. Often, the elderly, infirmed, or physically disabled can’t literally “get up and go” so easily. But, spiritually speaking, we can “take five” from sitting far more often than we do.

I have a watch that buzzes and says, “MOVE!” when I sit too long. Some days I need a spiritual reminder as well, and I’m guessing you do too. Go ahead; take five; and stand up, stand up for Jesus!

When Putin Prays

This week, Russian President, Vladimir Putin shocked many by praying for America because of our moral degradation. So I started to write an article to thank him and to scold American Christians for our backsliding. There’s just one problem – Putin.

I simply can’t line up with those who are congratulating him. This is a man who is guilty of severe human rights violations. And the country he leads is responsible for promoting atheism, trying to stamp out religion, brutally murdering over 200,000 clergy and believers, and destroying over 40,000 churches, mosques, and synagogues. In light of his actions, his offer of prayer seems shallow and political.

But it did remind me of something I wanted to do a long time ago.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write an article called, “In Defense of the Pharisees.” Then I remembered that Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs.” So I came to my senses. But I am convinced that there was a time when the Pharisees had the right motivation.

You see, the Pharisee sect arose out of difficult circumstances. The Greeks were practicing Hellenization, (forcing every culture to accept Greek language, customs, and religion). And those who stood firm on God’s laws became known as the Pharisees. But their respect for the law soon grew into something vile.

Fast forward to today, Christians. After all, history should be used for our learning, and there is a huge WARNING sign posted: don’t be like the hypocrites!

Jesus confirmed that the teaching of the Pharisees should be followed carefully, but not their lives (MT 23:3). In other words, what we are teaching Biblically might be correct, and it should be followed. But there might be one big hindrance to people hearing God’s Word…us!

Will we avoid the hypocrisy of a Putin or the Pharisees? Paul reminds us that people are saved when we watch our teaching and our lives (1 Timothy 4:16). And if we do so, perhaps people will, once again, desire to ask us the reason for the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15).

#AshTag May Best Reveal Your #HeartThing. #JesusSaysSo

AshTagLogo-1024x987So today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season. It is a time when many observers of of a tradition dating back to roughly the 8th-9th century get an ash mark of a cross placed on their foreheads. Followers will attempt to spend the next 40 days in penitent prayer, fasting, and giving, remembering Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. And, of course, followers will post the obligatory Selfie with an Ash-marked forehead, #AshTag.

Wait, what? Isn’t that sacrilegious? #AshTag faith? 

Please don’t misunderstand. I assume that there are those who are serious about Lent. They honestly desire to grow closer to God by fasting, prayer, and giving alms (charity). And out of respect for the “sacred,” most followers probably aren’t #AshTagging Selfies of their foreheads. But it does raise an interesting question: “Was Lent ever sacred in the first place?” And is it really sacrilegious to #AshTag a Selfie today?

After all, Lent is not in the Bible. It is a tradition invented by men. Nevertheless, the Bible does give us several examples of true people of faith displaying penitence in sackcloth and ash. So is there anything wrong with taking 40 days to fast, pray, and give charitably? And is it wrong to let others know you are doing it?

Well, it depends.

And it may just be an #AshTag that finally reveals the heart of a believer. Because, like so many religious issues, it is a #HeartThing. And there is simply no better way to get to the bottom of heart things than to examine the words of Jesus. Consider Christ:

Matthew 6
Regarding Outward Righteousness:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” 

Regarding Charitable Giving:
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” 

Regarding Prayer:
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

 

Regarding Fasting:
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

 

So, today is a great day to examine your heart. Is your first thought to practice your faith to be noticed by men or God? If by God, just remember that He told us what He wants. God knows your heart. He isn’t impressed with outward appearances. He wants followers who are dedicated to prayer, repentance, and serving.  It is a #HeartThing. #JesusSaysSo