NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance which will be observed on Thursday, May 5, 2016, inviting people of all faiths to pray for our nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Since its inception, this day has continually united Americans from all socio-economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds in prayer while also encouraging personal repentance and righteousness in the culture. The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans and is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens to celebrate our most beloved freedom; the freedom to humbly come before God and seek His guidance in prayer.
Mrs. Shirley Dobson serves as the Chairman and Dr. Tony Evans serves as the Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The Theme for 2016 is Wake Up America and is based on Isaiah 58:1. <Click here for more information on this year’s National Day of Prayer. >
‘AS THE FAMILY GOES, SO GOES THE NATION’
There’s an old saying that many seem to have forgotten. But truer words were never spoken: “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”
America’s families are fractured like never before, and our country is breaking apart at the seams as a result.
While the Scriptures don’t necessarily give specific policy prescriptions for every issue we face, they do provide very specific principles for how to live as both as free people and decent human beings. And these principles for nourishing human interaction apply to each member of the family. God himself created marriage, and the Bible is filled with stories about what makes families thrive and what pits members against each other. If everyone were to perfectly follow the principles given throughout the New Testament, our country would be a slice of “Heaven on Earth” and our homes would only be filled with bliss.
But as my friend Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College points out, men are not angels. We fail. We rebel. We fail again. We are selfish. Did I mention that we fail?
Our great country’s prescription for federal government was formed through a beautiful document called the Constitution, which recognizes that individuals need a limited government to protect us from others who try to control us or deny our rights. The Constitution protects the God-given rights of individuals as well as protect us as a nation from enemies who would destroy us. But the power of the government is finite and limited. In fact, the 10th Amendment specifically says that if the powers aren’t listed in the Constitution itself, then it is left up to the states and individuals to make every other decision about how we will live.
Our government was not designed to usurp the power of moms and dads to raise their children as they see fit. Nor is it empowered to take care of or make decisions for our children (as those who support a “nanny state” seek to do.) As parents, our job is tough — but it is the most important undertaking of our lives. In fact, the book of Malachi makes clear why God created families: to produce godly children. That is a tough calling. But our Constitution allows us to openly and boldly share our faith with our children in word and deed without fear of government intimidation or sanction.
When moms and dads work within the framework of Scripture — which shows us how to have fulfilling, happy relationships — and as we defeat government policies that attempt to encroach upon our rights to raise our children in the way we deem best, our families will find great freedom and joy.
However, even with strong faith and the freedom to parent, the fact remains that we will often fail.
God himself pointed out mankind’s inevitable failings long ago. But the story did not end there. In a marvelous display of his immense love for us, he provided abundant grace through his only son, who took on our sins and paid the ultimate price that we might be forgiven.
God gives grace—abundant grace, amazing grace—when we fail in our interactions with him and others, including our family members. Such grace (defined as “unmerited favor”) comes to those who are truly repentant, who truly seek forgiveness and who are truly “turning from our wicked ways.”
My husband and I are going through Ephesians together and a description of that beautiful grace from Chapter One keeps filling my heart and mind with absolute joy. It’s the message I want to share with moms everywhere during these days leading up to Mother’s Day.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us .”
Read that again, and focus on the word, “lavished.” Think for a moment about what “lavish” means: “to bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities.” Wow! How beautiful is that word picture? God doesn’t just tolerate us when we fail; he lavishes us with grace. He does not say he forgives and then holds a grudge; he lavishes us with grace, with favor. Say that aloud. Voice the truth and feel the power. Then meditate a moment on the sheer joy that comes with experiencing that kind of love.
To the moms who might be entering Mother’s Day feeling a bit regretful about past mistakes, or who have not taken every advantage that comes with living in a country that still mostly allows you to raise your children as you see fit, let God lavish you with his abundant, rich, delicious grace. Take the time to close your eyes, ask his forgiveness, and bathe your soul in the hope and joy that comes with a new beginning.
God’s grace is here for the asking. As long as there is breath in you, there is always a chance to mend the relationships in your life that are damaged. Breathe in his grace like rich, life-giving oxygen. Focus first on your relationship with God, then your family members (being deliberate to ask their forgiveness, too), then turn your attention to other relationships. Finally, commit to fighting to restore and protect the freedom God gave you to boldly teach your children to how to also experience His lavish grace. (Contributor: By Rebecca Hagelin for The Washington Times - Rebecca Hagelin is the author of “30 Ways in 30 Days to Strengthen Your Family”.)
Each generation faces its own spiritual battles, and alert Christians are aware that the family unit in the U.S. is under assault more directly and with ferocious evil intent than at any time in our history. Every parent knows it is true. Read the final paragraph of this essay again, and where you need to shore up family relationships, follow God’s leading to fight with spiritual weapons for those you love.
“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’” (Neh. 4:14)
U.S. DEBT UP MORE THAN $1 TRILLION
In the six months that have passed since then-retiring House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a budget deal with President Barack Obama that suspended the legal limit on the federal debt until March 15, 2017, the federal debt has increased by more than $1 trillion.
The Senate passed “The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” with a vote held in the early morning hours of Friday, Oct. 30. Obama signed it on Monday, Nov. 2.
At the close business on Oct. 30, 2015, the total federal debt was $18,152,981,685,747.52. By the close of business on April 28, 2016—the latest date for which the Treasury has published the number--the total federal debt was $19,186,207,744,589.55.
That is an increase of $1,033,226,058,842.03.
On Monday, Nov. 2--the day Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act and thus suspended the debt limit--the debt took a big leap. It closed that day at $18,492,091,120,833.99—up $339,109,435,086.47 from its $18,152,981,685,747.52 closing on Friday, Oct. 30.
Prior to that, the part of the federal debt subject to the then-legal limit of $18,113,000,080,959.35 had been frozen just below that limit for more than seven months (from March 13, 2015 through Oct. 30, 2015), during a “debt issuance suspension period” that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had declared on March 13, 2015, to push back the date at which the debt limit would be exceeded.
In a July 29, 2015, letter to Speaker Boehner, Lew indicated he was planning to extend the then-ongoing debt issuance suspension period, and explained its basic operations.
“On March 16, 2015, the outstanding debt of the United States reached the statutory limit,” Lew wrote. “As a result, Treasury had to begin employing extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis. These measures, which we have used in previous debt limit impasses, include a debt issuance suspension period with respect to investment of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and suspension of the daily reinvestment of Treasury securities held by the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan. The debt issuance suspension period currently lasts until July 30. Tomorrow, I expect to extend the debt issuance through October 30.”
According to the official summary of the law, Section 901 of the “Bipartisan Budget Act,” which Congress passed on Oct. 30 and Obama signed Nov. 2, provided that the “public debt limit is suspended through March 15, 2017.”
The $1,033,226,058,842.03 increase in the debt in the six months since then equals approximately $6,828 for each of the 151,320,000 persons whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated had a full or part-time job in the United States as of this March. (Contributor: By Terence P. Jeffrey for CNS News)
When we hear “billions” and “trillions,” most of us have no frame of reference in which to understand what the numbers signify. We do comprehend three things: 1) our national debt is out of control; 2) our elected leaders have no working plan to stem the tide of more indebtedness; and 3) financial ruin occurs when a nation can no longer borrow, and the U.S. is very close. With that, we need to pray.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches… better than silver or gold…. The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Prov. 22:1, 7)
TENNESSEE GOVERNOR SIGNS 'THERAPIST BILL' INTO LAW
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed a bill into law that allows therapists and counselors with "sincerely held principles" to reject gay, lesbian, transgender and other clients.
"Although Senate Bill 1556 has received attention for its perceived focus, my job is to look at the actual substance of the legislation," said Haslam, a Republican in his second term.
In a written statement to the media, he said two of his concerns had been addressed by this most recent version of the bill, which passed the state Senate on April 6. The first requires therapists and counselors to treat people who are an imminent danger to themselves or others. The second mandates the mental health professional arrange a referral to another counselor or therapist.
"The substance of this bill doesn't address a group, issue or belief system," the governor said. "I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs."
Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, expressed her disappointment, calling the law troubling.
"This measure is rooted in the dangerous [dangerous, really?] misconception that religion can be used as a free pass to discriminate," Weinberg said. "Allowing counselors to treat some potential clients differently from others based on their personal beliefs defies professional standards and could cause significant harm to vulnerable people."
Earlier this month, the Family Action Council of Tennessee touted its support for the bill, saying it was important to protect the religious beliefs and moral convictions of counselors and therapists.
The final version of the bill that became law no longer includes any references to religious beliefs. The language was changed by the Tennessee House and Senate after the April 6 vote.
The law went into effect with the governor's signature.
The debate over "religious freedom" laws is not unique to Tennessee. There have been some 100 bills proposed in legislatures across the United States in 2016 that invoke religion as justification to refuse services to gay people, according to Eunice Rho of the American Civil Liberties Union. (Contributor: By Steve Almasy for CNN - CNN's Jeremy Grisham and Keith Allen contributed to this report.)
Whether the skirmish is over a wedding venue or a therapist’s intellectual property (training and skills), these battles will continue as the LGBT community demands recognition and acceptance into mainstream culture. This is why Tennessee and other states are passing legislation to protect the freedom to decline services. Christians should pray for truth to prevail, while treating all with respect.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)
HOMEOWNERSHIP RATE FALLS TO THIRD LOWEST ON RECORD
The rate that Americans own their homes fell in the first quarter to the third lowest on record, another indication that worsening finances as well as changing preferences since the Great Recession are altering behavior.
The Commerce Department reported that the ownership rate fell a tenth to a seasonally adjusted 63.6% in the first quarter, marking the third lowest figure since the 63.5% low in the second quarter of 2015. The ownership rate was 67.8% in the quarter when the U.S. entered recession.
The diminished interest, or ability, to own a home comes at a time when mortgage rates are low but house prices are climbing.
Freddie Mac reported the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.66% in the week ending April 28. The 30-year mortgage has been below 4% throughout 2016, according to Freddie Mac data.
However, home prices are on the move, particularly out west. According to Case-Shiller data, prices nationally rose at a 5.4% clip in the 12 months ending February. Some cities including Denver and Portland are seeing double-digit percentage increases.
Rents also are picking up, however. The median asking price for rent was $870 in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported, representing year-over-year growth of 8.9%. (Contributor: By Steve Goldstein for Market Watch)
U.S. economy is in upheaval. Personal finances fluctuate, and numerous homeowners cannot maintain mortgage payments. Pray for God’s mercy for America. May He awaken His Church to repent and rediscover the true riches found only in Jesus Christ. God’s Word calls believers to seek spiritual values first. Pray that through revival in the Church, many will turn to Jesus and be saved.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mat. 6:33-34)
THE ROBOT REVOLUTION IN CAREGIVING
The game is simple, designed for a child and intended to teach users about diet and diabetes. I sit opposite Charlie, my diminutive fellow player. Between us is a touch screen. Our task is to identify which of a dozen various foodstuffs are high or low in carbohydrate. By dragging their images we can sort them into the appropriate groups.
Charlie is polite, rising to greet me when I join him at the table. We proceed, taking turns, congratulating each other when we make a right choice, and murmuring conciliatory comments when we don’t. It goes well. I’m beginning to take to Charlie.
But Charlie is a robot, a two-foot-tall electromechanical machine, a glorified computer. It may move, it may speak, but it is what it is: a machine that happens to look humanoid. How can I ‘take’ to it?
Charlie’s intended playmates aren’t sixty-something Englishmen, they’re children. Children naturally interact with dolls, imagining them to be sentient beings. It’s a part of childhood. But I’m an adult, for God’s sake. I should have put away such responses to dolls … shouldn’t I?
In truth my reaction to Charlie, far from being odd or childish, is pretty typical. Robots, of course, are hardly new. Over the last few decades we’ve had industrial devices that assemble cars, vacuum our floors, and shunt stuff around warehouses. But the 2010s have seen a rise in the attention paid to robots of the kind that most of us still think of as robots: autonomous machines that can sense their surroundings, respond, move, do things and, above all, interact with us humans. We all recognize R2-D2, WALL-E and scores of their lesser-known kin. The unnerving thing is that their nonfictional counterparts are extremely close at hand. Some press stories are exotic—those about ‘sexbots’ being among the more sensational—but many have featured robots at the less hedonic end of social need: disability and old age.
This has set me wondering how I might cope with the experience—not for an hour or a day, but for months, years. Not tomorrow, but very soon, I will have to get used to the idea of living with robots, most likely when I’m elderly and/or infirm. Contemplating this, my line of thought has surprised and disturbed me.
Modern medicine and increasing longevity have conspired to boost the need for social care, whether in the home or in institutions. “There’s a pressing requirement for robots in the social care of the elderly, partly because we have fewer people of working age,” says Tony Belpaeme, a professor in intelligent and autonomous control systems at Plymouth University. Traditionally among the poorest paid of the workforce, carers are an ever more scarce resource. Policy makers have begun to cast their eyes towards robots as a possible source of compliant and cheaper help.
The robots already in production, Belpaeme tells me, are principally geared to monitoring the elderly and infirm, or providing companionship while, as yet, performing only the most straightforward of physical tasks. Wait … companionship? “Yes,” says Belpaeme, deadpan, “Of course it would be better to have companionship from people … ” He points out that for all sorts of reasons this can’t always be achieved. “Studies have shown that people don’t mind having robots in the house to talk to. Ask the elderly subjects who take part in these studies if they’d like to have the robot left in the house for a bit longer, and the answer is nearly always yes.”
Consider our relationship with nonhuman entities of a different type: animals. The ancient bonds between us have changed, of course: hunting, transport, protection, and other such necessities have slipped to a secondary role. The predominant function of domestic animals in advanced industrial societies is companionship.
When medical researchers started to take an interest in the health effects of pet ownership, they began to find all sorts of beneficial consequences, physical as well as mental. Though somewhat debated, these include reductions in distress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, as well as a predictable increase in exercise. Pets seem to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as serum triglyceride and high blood pressure.
The pleasures of animals as companions—and the real distress that may follow their loss or death—are self-evident. Research in Japan has revealed a biological and evolutionary basis to the relationship, at least in so far as it applies to one group of pets. Japanese scientists measured the blood levels of oxytocin in dogs and their owners, had them gaze at one another for an extended period, then repeated the measurements.
If you already know that oxytocin is the hormone associated with building a bond between mothers and their babies, you’ll guess where this is going. Dogs have enjoyed a long period of domestication, during which their psychology as well as their physical attributes have been subject to intense selection. What the Japanese researchers found was that periods of mutual eye contact raised the oxytocin levels in both parties. In short, they uncovered the physiological basis of loving your dog.
Whether on account of chemistry or for other reasons, there is evidence that the majority of pet owners see their animals as part of the family. “This doesn’t mean they regard them as humans,” says professor Nickie Charles, a University of Warwick sociologist with a particular interest in animal–human relationships. Close links with animals are often in addition to rather than instead of relationships with family and friends. “But pets are easier and more straightforward, some owners say.”
The suggestion that nonliving things, including robots, might be able to evoke human responses that are quantitatively and even qualitatively comparable to our feelings about animals is contentious. Yet the evidence of common experience suggests that this is the case, even if we might not admit it or feel faintly uncomfortable if we do.
Who hasn’t shouted at a failing machine? The first vehicle I owned was a decrepit van that struggled even on modest inclines. More than once when driving the wreck I found myself putting an arm out through the window and using the flat of my hand to beat the door panel—like a rider on a horse’s flank. “Come on, come on,” I shouted at the dashboard. Only later did I contemplate the absurdity of this action.
Some such behavior is simply the relief of pent-up tension or anger—but not all. Think back to the mid-1990s and the advent of small egg-shaped electronic devices with a screen and a few buttons. They were called Tamagotchis. Bandai, the original Japanese manufacturer, described a Tamagotchi as “an interactive virtual pet that will evolve differently depending on how well you take care of it. Play games with it, feed it food and cure it when it is sick and it will develop into a good companion.” Conversely, if you neglected your Tamagotchi, it died. For a time, millions of children and even adults became willing slaves to the demands of these computerized keychain taskmasters. To read the complete article on robots and caregiving <Click Here>. (Contributor: By Geoff Watts for The Atlantic)
Articles such as this one are presented here for general awareness. While robots have become a functional part of our world, we haven’t yet sensed a “moral connection” calling for intercession. But what if a robot, programmed as a “nannie,” injured a child due to mechanical failure? How far will artificial intelligence enter our personal lives? What are the implications? Pray accordingly.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps. 20:7)
WANNA TALK ABOUT JESUS? YOU'LL NEED A PERMIT FOR THAT
North Carolina State University says it wants to "create that inclusive, welcoming environment." In other words, the only way to be truly inclusive and welcoming is to shut down the Christians and shove them into a closet.
A permit is required before students can talk about Jesus at North Carolina State University, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Grace Christian Life, a registered student group at NC State, filed suit over a policy requiring a permit for any kind of student speech or communication anywhere on campus – including religious speech.
In September 2015, the student group was told that without a permit, they must stop approaching other students inside the student union to engage in religious discussions or invite them to attend group events.
"It's an amazingly broad speech restriction," Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Tyson Langhofer told me. "Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not places where students need a permit just to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms."
Alliance Defending Freedom is a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases. They allege the Christian group has been singled out by the university.
"The University has not restricted the ability of other students and student groups to engage in expressive activity," the lawsuit states. "Grace has witnessed other students, student groups and off-campus groups handing out literature either without a permit or outside of the area reserved by their table permit."
A university spokesperson did not return my calls seeking comment.
NC State's rules were so draconian that the Christians were not even allowed to step from behind their table in the student union.
"Colleges are supposed to be places where ideas are freely shared – not gagged," Grace Christian Life president Hannalee Alrutz told me. "The only permit a student needs to speak on campus is the First Amendment."
It's true that the university does regulate student speech – written, oral or graphic.
ADF points to Regulation 07.25.12 that "requires a permit for any form of commercial or non-commercial speech, which the policy broadly defines as 'any distribution of leaflets, brochures, or other written material, or oral speech to a passersby (sic)…'"
"The policy specifics that any person 'wishing to conduct any form of solicitation on University premises must have the written permission of the Student Involvement (Office) in advance," ADF noted.
According to the lawsuit, a university official sent an email to another official concerned about the Christian club.
"There is an individual named Tommy who works for Grace who is essentially soliciting throughout the building," the email reads. "He walks up to a single person or duo of persons, starts with a hello and then starts the conversation into religion, ending with giving them a card."
The email goes on to explain how they've stopped other groups from engaging in similar behavior in order to "create that inclusive, welcoming environment."
In other words, the only way to be truly inclusive and welcoming is to shut down the Christians and shove them into a closet.
The lawsuit also provides some context on the university's attitude towards Christian ministry during the time that Grace came under attack.
Grace was a member of Chaplain's Cooperative Ministry, an independent, interfaith organization that supported individual campus ministries and planned jointly sponsored interfaith programs.
In October 2015, a university official met with the CCM to advise the group "on the speech restrictions imposed by the Speech Permit Policy."
"Solicitation is not allowed when conversation is initiated under one pretense different from the intended purpose ... inviting involvement in a certain ministry," the university official said in written minutes of the meeting.
In November 2015, the university dissolved its relationship with CCM because "the current environment of diversity and faith traditions within the university is not shown or mirrored well within CCM as it currently exists."
The lawsuit did not elaborate on the problematic "faith traditions" – but typically that means "Evangelical Christians."
ADF tried unsuccessfully to convince NC State to drop its unconstitutional speech policies – but they refused – hence the lawsuit.
"The courts have well established that a public university can't require permits in this manner for this kind of speech – and certainly can't enforce such rules selectively," ADF senior counsel David Hacker said. "Unconstitutional censorship is bad enough, but giving university officials complete discretion to decide when and where to engage in silence students makes the violation even worse."
Kudos to Grace Christian Life for standing up to a bunch of academic bullies who want to silence Christian voices. And thank goodness for bold believers like Miss Alrutz.
"I think this is an attack on my liberty as a citizen of the United States," she told me – warning that every freedom-loving American should be concerned.
"If they could do it to us – they could do it to anybody," she said. (Contributor: By Todd Starnes for One News Now - Todd Starnes is host of "Fox News & Commentary," heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." )
Our goal in suggesting a prayer focus for each article is to avoid a shallow response and to touch the “high road” of intercession and go deeply to foundational issues. Free speech is the keystone of a government by, for, and of the people. The Founders’ vision was freedom, not a nation of slaves to an overbearing, dictatorial “federal monarchy.” Pray for a resolution that upholds free and open debate.
“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:19-20)