|REGISTERED TO PRAY TODAY = 30||
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27
Pray for George W. Bush
George W. Bush
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Actually, the seeds of my decision had been planted the year before, by the Reverend Billy Graham. He visited my family for a summer weekend in Maine. I saw him preach at the small summer church, St. Ann's by the Sea. We all had lunch on the patio overlooking the ocean. One evening my dad asked Billy to answer questions from a big group of family gathered for the weekend. He sat by the fire and talked. And what he said sparked a change in my heart. I don't remember the exact words. It was more the power of his example. The Lord was so clearly reflected in his gentle and loving demeanor. The next day we walked and talked at Walker's Point, and I knew I was in the presence of a great man. He was like a magnet; I felt drawn to seek something different. He didn't lecture or admonish; he shared warmth and concern. Billy Graham didn't make you feel guilty; he made you feel loved. Over the course of that weekend, Reverend Graham planted a mustard seed in my soul, a seed that grew over the next year. He led me to the path, and I began walking. It was the beginning of a change in my life.
I had always been a "religious" person, had regularly attended church, even taught Sunday school and served as an altar boy. But that weekend my faith took on a new meaning. It was the beginning of a new walk where I would commit my heart to Jesus Christ. I was humbled to learn that God sent His Son to die for a sinner like me. I was comforted to know that through the Son, I could find God's amazing grace, a grace that crosses every border, every barrier and is open to everyone. Through the love of Christ's life, I could understand the life changing powers of faith. When I returned to Midland, I began reading the Bible regularly. Don Evans talked me into joining him and another friend, Don Jones, at a men's community Bible study. The group had first assembled the year before, in spring of 1984, at the beginning of the downturn in the energy industry. Midland was hurting. A lot of people were looking for comfort and strength and direction. A couple of men started the Bible study as a support group, and it grew. By the time I began attending, in the fall of 1985, almost 120 men would gather. We met in small discussion groups of ten or twelve, and then joined the larger group for full meetings. Don Jones picked me up every week for the meetings. I remember looking forward to them. My interest in reading the Bible grew stronger and stronger, and the words became clearer and more meaningful. We studied Acts, the story of the Apostles building the Christian Church, and next year, the Gospel of Luke. The preparation for each meeting took several hours, reading the Scripture passages and thinking through responses to discussion questions. I took it seriously, with my usual touch of humor....
Laura and I were active members of the First Methodist Church of Midland, and we participated in many family programs, including James Dobson's Focus on the Family series on raising children. As I studied and learned, Scripture took on greater meaning, and gained confidence and understanding in my faith. I read the Bible regularly. Don Evans gave me the "one-year" Bible; a Bible divided into 365 daily readings, each one including a section from the New Testament, the Old Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. I read through that Bible every other year. During the years in between, I pick different chapters to study at different times.
I have also learned the power of prayer. I pray for guidance. I do not pray for earthly things, but for heavenly things, for wisdom and patience and understanding. My faith gives me focus and perspective. It teaches humility. But I also recognize that faith can be misinterpreted in the political process. Faith is an important part of my life. I believe it is important to live my faith, not flaunt it. America is a great country because of our religious freedoms. It is important for any leader to respect the faith of others. That point was driven home when Laura and I visited Israel in 1998. We had traveled to Rome to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter, who was attending a school program there, and spent three days in Israel on the way home.
It was an incredible experience. I remember waking up at the Jerusalem Hilton and opening the curtains and seeing the Old City before us, the Jerusalem stone glowing gold. We visited the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And we went to the Sea of Galilee and stood atop the hill where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. It was an overwhelming feeling to stand in the spot where the most famous speech in the history of the world was delivered, the spot where Jesus outlined the character and conduct of a believer and gave his disciples and the world the beatitudes, the golden rule, and the Lord's Prayer. Our delegation included four gentile governors-one Methodist, two Catholics, and a Mormon, and several Jewish-American friends. Someone suggested we read Scripture. I chose to read "Amazing Grace," my favorite hymn. Later that night we all gathered at a restaurant in Tel Aviv for dinner before we boarded our middle-of-night flight back to America. We talked about the wonderful experiences and thanked the guides and government officials who had introduced us to their country. And toward the end of the meal, one of our friends rose to share a story, to tell us how he, a gentile, and his friend, a Jew, had (unbeknownst to the rest of us) walked down to the Sea of Galilee, joined hands underwater, and prayed together, on bended knee. Then out of his mouth came a hymn he had known as a child, a hymn he hadn't thought about in years. He got every word right: Now is the time approaching, by prophets long foretold, when all shall dwell together, One Shepherd and one fold. Now Jew and gentile, meeting, from many a distant shore, around an altar kneeling, one common Lord. Faith changes lives. I know, because faith has changed mine.
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