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).
1 – Lamp Under a Bowl: “It can sometimes be uncomfortable to allow your light to glow in the midst of the world’s darkness; yet as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so are we to reflect the light of Jesus…”
2 – Fishermans Net: “The fishing net is about the Judgment Seat of Christ at the end times. It is for all people, but Jesus was delivering it directly to the scribes…”
3 – Unshrunk Cloth: (Scripture only) – “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one….”
4 – The Sower Sows the Word: (Scripture only) – “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path…”
5 – The Mustard Seed: (Scripture only) – “The mustard seed is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree,”
(4) Mark 4:3-20: Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,” they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer s-ws the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
(5) Matthew 13:31-32 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it
is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the
prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
(3)Luke 5:36 “He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.”
(2) Matthew 13:47-52: “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
(1)Luke 8:16-18 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.
It is important for you to set and achieve goals because each person have a unique purpose in life that only him/her can fulfill. It’s kind of like building your own house and you need to trust God to help you set those goals. If you have a problem getting started or being focused, you can always go to Him to help you set your goals for he is the architect of your life. God has a plan for your life and only through Him it can be achieved.
In Philippians it says,
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:13-14 (MSG)