Monday, June 29, 2009


Can America still be called a "Christian nation"? The answer is both yes and no, depending on what is meant by the phrase. When citizens refer to America as a Christian nation, they do not mean Christianity is an official religion, but that the majority of its citizens hold to a belief in the Christian God. All but one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (Franklin, a Dieist) were Christians, but that does not make America a Christian nation.

What makes us Christian is the sheer number of our citizens - 78% - who identify themselves as Christian. We are certainly a more religiously diverse society today than during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. There are increasing numbers of non-Christians here, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, Hindus, Wiccans and Naturists. But Christians comprise 78% of the population, while non-Christians are only 6%, and those with no religious affiliation are 16%.

Our constitutional legal system is somewhat based on principles of the Bible, but not on the Koran or any other holy book. We observe Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, and other Christian holidays. The Ten Commandments are still on the walls of several national buildings, including the Supreme Court chambers. Many of our coins have displayed "In God We Trust" since the Civil War, and it's been on our paper money since 1956. We have included "Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance since 1954. The USA is still firmly fashioned by Judeo-Christian heritage.

Philosopher/historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1831, "There is no country in the world, where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America." That is still true today. Though we do not live under a Christian government, we are free to practice our particular religion in accordance with the basic Christian principles which define this nation. In that sense it is proper to say America is a Christian nation.

"In God We Trust" has been used as our national motto in some form since 1863, probably being taken from the final verse of our National Anthem. When we hear leaders say we are not a Christian nation, they are stating an official truth. But when others say America is indeed a Christian nation, they are stating a practical truth. If a majority of its citizens adhere to the Christian religion, then that nation is a Christian nation.

I recently heard a fine song by a group called Diamond Rio entitled, "In God We Still Trust." You can hear it on I believe it's worth your hearing.

May it always be that way in America - "In God We Trust!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009


In the ever-recycling world of the internet, a prayer has been circulating reportedly given by Billy Graham, then aired on Paul Harvey. The prayer is partially true, but it did not originate with Billy Graham, nor was it first aired by Paul Harvey.

It was prayed in 1996 by Rev. Joe Wright of Central Christian Church, Wichita, Kansas, at the opening of the Kansas State House of Representatives. He got a lot of flack for it and some legislators walked out while he prayed it, but its message is true, no matter what your political leanings may be. He doesn't leave much out.

Pastor Wright called it his "Prayer of Repentance." You probably have heard some of it before, but I offer it to you in its complete form with rightful authorship.  I hope you will read (and perhaps pray) all of it, before you form your opinion of it. You might need to change just a word or two so it applies to our nation rather than just Kansas. 

"Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," (Isaiah 5:20) but that's exactly what we've done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

"We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

"We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

"Search us, O God, and know our hearts today. Try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask this in the name of Your son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen"

With our newfound freedom of self-expression on the Internet, we need to keep truth before us at all times.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Some may be thinking my WEEKLY MESSAGEs have recently turned the corner from personal devotions to political commentary. I didn't mean for it to be thus, but I admit to have begun addressing the times we live in more directly. It's all part of a Christian's rightful opportunity to witness to the culture in which (s)he lives.

Lutherans believe in separation of church and state. The state has no authority over God's Word, and the Church has no authority of the sword. The Church has no right of civil rule over land and people or to enact and enforce civil laws. So also the state has no right to regulate what a church believes or how it functions in its beliefs.

While it is desirable that public officials be Christian, being a Christian does not guarantee being a good leader. Being an official of the state confers no special authority on a Christian. The Church should not expect or ask any special assistance from the State in her work of soul-saving, except the freedom to exercise one's beliefs as guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

History not withstanding, the Church has no biblical right to set up or depose civil rulers, or to establish kingdoms. Despite what has happened in other lands, the State has no biblical authority to organize Christian congregations, appoint ministers, or legislate spiritual things. Any usurping of power either by the Church or by the State in the domain of the other, is wrong and always results in misrule and tyranny.

Christians may choose to participate in government as citizens in any God-pleasing manner, their motivation being gratitude and love towards God and love and concern for people. Christians have freedom of choice in governmental matters. Any and all teachings that coerce Christians to seek a particular course of involvement have no basis in Holy Scripture.

Christians may (and should) voice concerns if they believe government is erring in its treatment of people. Indeed, they should witness the truth and strive to correct error and confront evil. Christians may exercise their freedom of speech in governmental matters as individuals, but being in the Church gives them no special authority. Ministers need to be especially careful in this area. As in all other things, Christians must rely on God's Word for direction, as they witness to their culture.

When Jesus said, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," (Matthew 22:21) He was speaking of more than just taxes. He was telling us there are two Kingdoms, and that we are citizens of both. We need to keep from mixing them up!

God bless the Church, and may God bless America!

Monday, June 8, 2009


"The Wizard of Oz" is a classic to most of us. Besides being a fun story, it contains moral lessons from Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion as they travel the Yellow Brick Road. The great enemy is the Wicked Witch of the West. One lesson we get from the story is that good eventually overcomes evil.

A new Broadway musical, however, has changed the original story completely. In it, the Wicked Witch is a sympathetic character. Born with green skin, she feels like an outsider, and so we are to empathize with all that she must go through in her sad plight. Major characters, plot lines and other details are all changed so the Wicked Witch comes out as merely a misunderstood person. The end result is evil becomes good and good becomes evil.

But this is nothing new. About 500 years before Christ, Isaiah 5:20 wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil." During his ministry, Isaiah saw a reversal of moral values taking place in Israel. People were pushing to make the evils of murder, idolatry and sexual perversion to be acceptable, even good. Isaiah gave them many stern warnings most of which, sadly, they did not heed.

A wise man once said that to change people's minds, you first make the unthinkable thinkable. Then you make it acceptable, and eventually the acceptable will become preferable.

Sound familiar? Our world today pushes relativism in almost everything, resulting in biblical values being trashed. The best way we Christians can avoid this disturbing trend is by devotion to God's word. Only through reading the Word, hearing the Word and living by the Word can we discern what is really good and evil. And only in knowing the Truth can we teach it to our future generations.

Jesus saw evil made into good in His day, and we see it as well. To combat this we must first open our eyes to see what is happening around us. And then we need to combat evil with the truth. Jesus didn't condemn sinners, but He did condemn their sin. He forgave the repentant, but He warned people to follow the truth. He was especially hard on those who believed they had some special relationship with God based on inheritance rather than faith.

No one is born directly into the Kingdom. There will be no denominations in heaven. We all must come to it by faith in Jesus. Christianity is a living faith that rejects the evil and follows the good. Satan's ways must never become ours. We must stand fast in our Lord, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life, the only way to God the Father.

God has no grandchildren....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I am an admirer of Ben Stein. He's a homely, short little guy in tennis shoes whose appearance hides the fact that he is also a world-class economist and a great writer with a fine mind. A favorite cousin sent me his last article of "Monday Night at Morton's," written for many years at Morton's Restaurant about the Hollywood stars he meets there.

Ben Stein says he realizes now that the stars for us to emulate are not those who recite someone else's lines in front of a camera for an eight-figure salary. True stars are the soldiers, airmen, sailors, nurses, firemen, cops, EMTs, teachers and all kinds of caregivers who put their lives on the line every day to help people who need it.

I dedicate today's WEEKLY MESSAGE to a friend named Ron and to all those others who Ben Stein's words describe so well:

"I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

"But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

"This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York . I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

"Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will."

Thanks, Ben, for telling us the truth for today.