President Obama on Thursday (Feb. 5) called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe.
“We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.”
He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the golden rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context.
“As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”
Obama denounced the so-called Islamic State that is waging a bloody war across Syria and Iraq against fellow Muslims and religious minorities, labeling the group “a brutal, vicious death cult.”
The breakfast has often turned controversial, and this year was no exception with the inclusion of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, who attended but did not speak and was not seated on the dais with other speakers.
Under pressure from China not to recognize the Nobel laureate, Obama nonetheless opened his remarks by welcoming the Dalai Lama, calling him “a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion” and someone who “inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.”
Chinese officials had criticized the Dalai Lama’s plans to appear at the event.
“We are against any country’s interference in China’s domestic affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues, and are opposed to any foreign leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form,” said Hong Lei, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before the breakfast.
Obama and the Dalai Lama have met several times at the White House, but the White House usually keeps the meetings private and low-key so as not to anger China.
NASCAR commentator Darrell Waltrip, the keynoter of the breakfast, joked about his being invited two years after conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson raised eyebrows by directly confronting the president about Obama’s signature health care reform.
“I’m not a brain surgeon and I’m not running for office so I’m the perfect guy to be here this morning,” he said.
From a distance, Pope Francis joined Obama in calling for greater religious freedom.
“I ask you to pray for me and to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who experience persecution and death for their faith,” the pontiff wrote in a letter to attendees that was read in part by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who co-chaired the breakfast with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
Following the recent deadly attacks on a French weekly that had published satirical cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, Obama also spoke of the need to support both freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
“If, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults,” he said, drawing applause, “and stand shoulder to shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities, who are the targets of such attacks.”
Obama expressed thanks for the safe return of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, who was held in North Korea for more than a year, and recounted his recent meeting in Boise, Idaho, with the family of U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini, who remains imprisoned in Iran and has become a cause celebre for many evangelicals.
“We’re going to keep up this work for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith,” the president said, noting that Rabbi David Saperstein, the new U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, would be heading soon to Iraq to work with religious leaders there.
The breakfast, in its 63rd year, is chaired each year by members of Congress who meet weekly for prayer when Congress is in session. It draws politicians, diplomats and prominent evangelical Christian leaders but often includes an interfaith roster of speakers.
Rabbi Greg Marx of Maple Glen, Pa., gave the invocation and former Ambassador Andrew Young, once an aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a president of the National Council of Churches, gave the benediction.
Wicker read from the Gospel of Luke in place of the scheduled speaker, King Abdullah II of Jordan, reciting the story of the good Samaritan. Abdullah had to return home after a hostage crisis involving the Islamic State turned deadly.
“We all know the heartbreaking circumstances his country is experiencing at this point,” Wicker said. “Our prayers are with the people of Jordan during this troubling time of crisis.”
Courtesy: christianheadlines.com/Religion News Service
Photo: President Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday (Feb. 5, 2015).
The opinions about the “right” sermon length are varied, but they are typically intense. Several months ago, I conducted a social media poll to find out the preferred sermon length of preachers. Since that time, I have been observing pastors’ preaching on podcasts and in person. I have also been asking them directly about their sermon length.
I found three dominant schools of thought about this issue. I have also been able to see some specific parameters that were not as clear in my previous post. Allow me to list them in order of their magnitude
1. The most frequent preaching length is 20 to 28 minutes. This preaching preference is not only noted among the greatest number of pastors (and church members as well), it appears to be the fastest growing segment. A number of pastors who were preaching longer sermons are now in this category. The most frequent rationale for this length is that it is received best by our culture of shorter attention spans. I find it interesting that 30 minutes as a sermon length is rarely mentioned. Many pastors are fastidious about keeping their sermons at least a couple of minutes shy of 30 minutes.
2. The second most frequent length is 45 to 55 minutes, but the number of pastors preaching this long is diminishing. Indeed, I wish I had considered this issue as one of my 15 trends for 2015. The longer sermon is still advocated by many pastors, but there are fewer of these pastors every year. The most common rationale for this longer sermon is that good exposition cannot take place in 30 minutes or less. One needs at least 45 minutes to do justice to the text.
3. The third most frequent length is one of no time constraints. This category of preaching is relatively small compared to the first two, but it has some strong advocates. Indeed the number of preachers and church members who are proponents of this view has held steady around 10 percent. The rationale for the “no time constraints” position is that we should not dictate how God might work in a sermon. If God leads the preacher to preach 10 minutes, so be it. If the sermon is over an hour, that is fine too.
I am watching these trends in sermon length carefully. A lot of my input and feedback comes from you readers of this blog. I look forward to hearing from you for a lively discussion!
These are just a few of the reasons you won’t want to miss the 2015 Church of God Convention in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Make plans to join us June 22–25. To get your tickets today.
Not convinced? Steve Rennick. Steve Southards. Gillian Grannum. The music of the Crossings Venue Band. We’ve got something for everyone, but you’ve got to be there to experience it!
More than ever before, the world needs Christ. Jesus is the subject. The convention will awaken and inspire our passion for doing amazing things in His name—freeing the captives, seeking the lost, loving the brokenhearted. Together, we will take back all that Hell has stolen. Be Bold. Reclaim.
The Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention consists of representatives, or “messengers,” as they are called, from cooperating churches, who gather to confer and determine the programs, policies, and budget of the Convention. Each church may be represented by up to 10 messengers, depending on church size and Cooperative Program giving amounts, ensuring equal accessibility for small and large congregations alike.
Messenger cards which certify the information required by Article III of the SBC Constitution and SBC By-Law 8 can be obtained by any church from the state convention with which they are affiliated.
Members interested in becoming messengers should contact their pastors for information on the appropriate process of approval applicable in their church.
Article III from the SBC Constitution
Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:
1- One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.
2 – One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
3- The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten (10).
4- Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.
From the SBC ByLaws
8. Messenger Credentials and Registration:
A. Each person elected by a church cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention as a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention shall be registered as a messenger to the Convention upon presentation of proper credentials. Credentials shall be presented by each messenger, in person, at the Convention registration desk and shall be in the following form:
(1) A completed, properly authorized, official Southern Baptist Convention registration document, certifying the messenger’s election in accordance with Article III. Membership, of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention; but if the messenger does not have the messenger registration document,
(2) A letter from the messenger’s church, signed by the pastor, clerk or moderator of the church, certifying the messenger’s election in accordance with Article III. Membership, of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention; or
(3) Some other document (which may include a fax, email or other physical or electronically transmitted document) from the messenger’s church which is deemed reliable by the Credentials Committee or qualifies under guidelines approved by the registration secretary and the Credentials Committee.
Messengers registered in accordance with this section shall constitute the Convention.
B. The president of the Convention, in consultation with the vice presidents, shall appoint, at least thirty (30) days before the annual session, a Credentials Committee to serve at the forthcoming sessions of the Convention. This committee shall review and rule upon any questions which may arise in registration concerning the credentials of messengers. Any such ruling may be appealed to the Convention during business session. Any contention arising on the floor concerning seating of messengers shall be referred to the committee for consideration and the committee shall report back to the Convention.
C. The registration secretary shall be at the place of the annual meeting at least one (1) day prior to the convening of the first session of the Southern Baptist Convention for the purpose of opening the registration desk and registering messengers. The registration secretary also shall convene the Credentials Committee at least one day prior to the annual meeting and shall assist the committee in reviewing questions concerning messenger credentials. The registration secretary shall report to the Convention the number of registered messengers.
Erica Campbell may be known for her gospel music, but the Mary Mary group member is also using social media to educate people about learning the difference between the voice of Jesus and Satan.
Campbell, the 33-year-old “HELP” singer, took to Twitter and Instagram to give fans insight about telling the difference between the voice of God and Satan’s voice.
“No heart is an empty heart! Either Jesus is in control or Satan is in control,” Campbell wrote. “Who’s in control Gods way gets Gods results! Stop letting Satan talk to you!”
She went on to speak about the importance of avoiding negative thoughts.
“Those negative thoughts aren’t yours they’re his! U been listening so long, you can’t hear God anymore,” she wrote. “Who’s been in your ear? Who do you listen to?”
The singer explained how her followers could get to know the voice of God.
“Read the Bible today to learn God voice There’s no excuse not to, it’s on your phone, there are different versions of the bible so you can understand and comprehend and apply it to your life #seekHimfindHim #Satanwantsyourcompleteattention,”
Earlier this year, the singer announced that she would add church leader to her resume with The California Worship Center. Erica and her husband Warryn Campbell III have decided to become church leaders after hosting Bible studies in hotel rooms.
Warryn, the My Block Records CEO, who has produced music for his wife and her sister Tina in their group Mary Mary for years, has inspired a direction for the church.
“Warryn is real serious about ministry and wants to make sure that, above all, it is God-centered,” she said on The Yolanda Adams Morning Show earlier this year. “We kind of take the approach of [reaching out to] the broken, wounded people who have kind of been jaded by church and don’t want to go no more.”