Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

Federal appeals court decision: 14 crosses erected along Utah roads to commemorate fallen state Highway Patrol troopers betray a state endorsement of Christianity, a position which violates the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling overturns a 2007 decision by a federal district judge that permitted the crosses saying they communicate a culturally familiar and secular message about death and do not suggest a public endorsement of religion.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions weighing in on religion in the public square.

What does the cross signify? For Christians the cross is the dominant symbol of faith. It represents Christ’s sacrificial death to bring us redemption and it also calls us to follow him by laying down our lives in obedience to his call. Yes, the cross does stand for Christianity.

In this, the court of appeals did get their decision right, as much as the 2007 judgment downplayed the obvious Christian connection with the symbol. The argument isn’t whether or now a cross is Christian but whether or not a faith symbol can also carry wider meaning, for a whole culture, a signify a message understandable and respectable to an entire “cross-cultural” nation.

No, there is no stripping the Christian foundation from the foundation of America. Christian symbols and values and ethics and common law are the root of our very civilization. We cannot extricate ourselves from this fact. Many want to deny this reality. But the fact remains, we are a nation anchored in Christian claims of truth, which in itself makes us “cross cultural.” Christian values call for love and gentleness with a bold and no-compromise stance on virtue. Christianity was born in a multi-cultural world. We’re made for that environment, which is why Christianity and America fit like hand in glove.

The court decision got it wrong for the right reason. Yes, crosses mean Christianity. But Christianity is no threat to the constitution or to religious tolerance. The very nature of the “cross” means we lay down our lives in love of Jesus… That’s always been seen as a threat to pagan cultures bound themselves by a fear of death. It’s not our intolerance that is so offensive. It’s our boldness in the face of death… wrapped in our symbol of death itself, the cross.

In Iraq today a homicide bomber blew himself up killing and injuring more than 200 new army recruits. The attack, one of the bloodiest in months, comes just two weeks before all but 50,000 U.S. troops head home and highlights the fear that Iraq is not able to preserve peace.

“God, we pray to day for Iraq and for the U.S. soldiers there preparing to hand over security stewardship of the nation to the Iraqi army. We pray for peace and for peacemakers. We ask for a miracle in Iraq. When armies cannot stop terror, you can. Work in and against the choices of those plotting to spread disaster and evil. God, apart from you we cannot solve these problems. Intervene. Act. Bring peace. We need you! Jesus, Prince of Peace, come to Iraq…”

The chaos and destruction left behind by floods ravaging Pakistan are giving Taliban insurgents opportunity to regroup.  Over the last couple of years, the Pakistani army has succeeded in launching attacks against militants. But now, with thousands of Pakistani soldiers have been assigned to flood relief and will soon be assigned to rebuild bridges and roads after the floods – the worst in Pakistan’s history – recede. This will no doubt give Taliban a reprieve to rebuild and reorganize.

Meanwhile, cholera, which can spread rapidly after floods and other disasters, had been detected in the northwest Pakistan, where the floods first hit more than two weeks ago. About 1,500 people have died in the disaster and more than 7.9 million acres of cotton, sugar cane and wheat crops destroyed foreshadowing dire economic consequences in a country. About the 20 million people are homeless because of the floods.

Pakistan needs prayer.

“God, grant Pakistan your grace and favor. Lift the suffering Pakistan is enduring from the floods and the consequences in the wake. Give national and international leaders wisdom and courage to deal with this crisis. Stem the tide of radical elements taking advantage of the chaos. Lord, in the aftermath of this disaster, reveal your practical love and power to heal bless. In Jesus…”

Pray for the families of Ted Stevens and Sean O’Keefe. Conflicting reports indicate that Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history who lost his seat after a corruption conviction that was later dismissed, was killed Tuesday in a small plane crash in southwest Alaska. Stevens was 86. A family friend reported today that Stevens was among five people killed in the crash, though this report has not been officially confirmed. Sean O’Keefe, former head of NASA was on board the plane and is confirmed dead.

In 1978, Senator Stevens survived a Learjet crash in Anchorage. That accident killed five people, including Steven’s wife.

Stevens became a political legend in Alaska. Nicknamed “Uncle Ted,” he was named “Alaskan of the Century” in 2000 by the state legislature. The airport in Anchorage bears his name. Stevens’ long tenure and clout on Capitol Hill, brought Alaska a substantial influence in national politics, far exceeding the State’s small population.

“God we pray today for the State of Alaska, for the Stevens’ and O’Keefe families and for all those personally and nationally impacted by the loss of the former senator and former head of NASA. Their deatsh gives us pause to consider our own mortality. We pray you will teach us to consider our own days and the inevitability of our own deaths. We pray too that in light of this tragedy that you will remind us to pray for our national leaders. We pray for their health and safety but also for their righteousness, integrity and moral strength. Send us LEADERS and not mere politicians. We pray again for your gracious blessing… In Jesus’ name…”

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