5/26/10

Pause at 3:00 on the 31st

Memorial Day signals the unofficial beginning of the summer travel season, and home or beach barbeques. Work-weary Americans look forward to the three-day weekend celebration; but Memorial Day is about so much more.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who died while serving America in uniform. Unlike Veteran’s Day, when we “remember those who fought for our country in America’s wars,” on Memorial Day, we remember those who gave “the last full measure of devotion.”

The holiday began with the Union soldiers of the American Civil War. In 1868, members of the Grand Army of the Republic asked General John Logan for permission to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades with flowers. The first official observance was in Arlington National Cemetery—a procession through the graves, placing flowers and American flags on each grave, and singing hymns and songs in the honor of the fallen. Because of this, the day of remembrance was originally called “Decoration Day.”

The official date of the celebration has been the last Monday in May since 1971, but few today honor the dead with solemn remembrance and tears (except those who have experienced the pain of losing loved ones). Yet, every American owes a debt of gratitude to those who bravely paid the ultimate price in the service of their country.

My heart is torn to see Americans take their freedoms lightly, forgetting the price of those freedoms. There will be picnics and parades, but it’s time for a pause. In December, 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed by the U.S. Congress to encourage Americans to observe Memorial Day at 3 p.m.—pausing in their activities as a token of respect for those honorable men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives for our country.

So pause on May 31st at three o'clock., and tell your children why. It’s a powerful choice to pass this message on to the next generation.

5/19/10

What Does Revival Look Like?

I cannot claim to know what revival looks like in every instance. God moves as He wills in the affairs of men. “We cannot organize revival,” G. Campbell Morgan said, “but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”

The only revival I’ve ever seen personally came in October, 1973, at Thomas Road Baptist Church and Lynchburg Baptist College. It changed my life. The story of the Lynchburg Revival appears in a book by Dr. Edward Hindson titled Glory in the Church: The Coming Revival (Thomas Nelson, 1975). This posting is based on Dr. Jerry Falwell's account, which is the final chapter of that book.

Dr. Falwell invited the Life Action Ministries Crusade team—then from St. Petersburg, Florida—for a week-long evangelistic crusade. I was part of that team.


Evangelist Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., author of Ablaze with His Glory, preached on “Phoney Baloney Christians,” and more than 50 people came to Christ that day—including many professing “Christians.” Thomas Road’s youth director, Rev. Vernon Brewer—now the founder and director of World Help—gave testimony to Christ working in his own life about his assurance of salvation.

Dr. Ed Hindson—now assistant chancellor at Liberty University, but with Life Action at that time—preached on “Ten Evidences of Salvation,” and more professing “Christians” came to Christ or nailed down their salvation. Later in the week, when he preached on “Revival in the Family,” more than 100 families publicly committed themselves to regular family devotions.

The Life Action team members gathered off campus for soul-searching, prayer, and fasting. About that time, the Spirit of God began to overwhelm students at the high school academy. A student burst into tears in the classroom and asked to be saved; another went to the principal, also wanting salvation. Classrooms became counseling rooms, and around 50 young people became Christians.

One evening, after church and college members shared how God was working, 99 people came to Christ. Dr. Ed met with college students later that same evening. More than 500 students crammed into the lobby of the downtown “hotel dormitory," and as the students called upon God for revival, deep conviction came. Many more were saved. Student prayer meetings continued throughout the night. Spontaneous weeping and singing were heard all over the dormitories.

By Friday morning, “the entire church and campus were electrified,” Falwell said. The college schedule had been totally interrupted by God, and conviction continued to come over the student body. Prayer rooms were packed at the church in every evening service. Dr. Hindson's message, “War with Russia”—which came as Israel and Egypt erupted into conflict—brought a strong desire in God’s people to get ready for the Lord’s return.

Prayer meetings broke out in college dorms and homes; and students, concerned for unsaved loved ones, called home. Many led their parents to Christ over the phone, or drove home to share the Gospel. Students evangelized throughout Lynchburg, and Dr. Falwell’s office was full constantly—people wanted to know Jesus! Testimony after testimony of God’s grace continued to fuel the flames of revival as people heard words of conviction and transformation.

At one point, so many were under conviction that the “timing” for Falwell’s television broadcast was thrown off. They went on the air with tears still in their eyes, and people wrote from all over the country, asking, “What's happening? What is God doing there?”

During 13 continuous days of services, 683 people make professions of faith. But the revival didn’t end when the Life Action team left. Outbursts of revival continued in the church and college. Regarding those days, Falwell said, “I have learned some significant facts about revival. First, you cannot start it without God. Secondly, if God is in it, you cannot stop it when it comes. Thirdly, you cannot keep it going when He has decided to quit!”

Our lost world desperately needs to see the glory of God. Del Fehsenfeld wrote, “True revival is that divine moment when God bursts upon the scene and displays His glory ... The glory comes when God takes over. He fills the church with His presence and power. When He takes over, all the credit goes to Him.”

I picked up Glory in the Church recently, and hungered for the kind of revival that shook Lynchburg 37 years ago. Del used to ask team members the same question that he asked churches: “If revival depended on you—your prayers, your faith, your obedience—would you ever experience revival?” Revival begins when individual Christians cry out to God and are willing to pay the price to know Him.

"Will You not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6).

5/12/10

Renee Johnson: Choices from Brokenness

Most of my friends are peers, but Renee Johnson, the Devotional Diva, is one of my younger friends. Vivacious and courageous, Renee inspires me. Many of her choices stem from the broken pieces of her life—pieces she has allowed God to transform. Let me introduce you to my 20-something girlfriend.

Dawn: Renee, I had to smile when I heard about your words to your mom before you became a Christian. What was it you said?
Renee: When I was four years old, I told my mom I’d be "ready to accept the responsibility of becoming a Christian" when I was five; so, on my fifth birthday, I knelt down with my mom and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

Dawn: I love that. What challenge in your life since that time helped you to grow in dependency on the Lord?
Renee: What challenge? My entire life! Seriously, I have come through so many trials, and God has helped me overcome. My health issues—ranging from anxiety to eczema (a skin rash)—have torn me into pieces; but God is greater and has healed my brokenness (Hosea 6:1-3). As a result of my illnesses, I humbly accepted the message God planted in my heart. I’ve found it is strong enough to save my soul (James 1:21).

Dawn: What choice have you made along the way that you’ve found helpful?
Renee: I’ve had a daily quiet time since 1998. I wrote my first book, a devotional titled Faithbook of Jesus, as a result of that fruitful time spent with Jesus—those 15 years with the Lord. I have journals that reach about five feet tall in all, if you stack them one on top of the other.

Dawn: Journaling, a wise choice. What would you say is the purpose of Faithbook?
Renee: It is written by a 20-something (me) and the primary audience is for 18- to 35-year-olds who are making the toughest decisions they will face throughout life.

Dawn: As the Devotional Diva, your passion, then, is to help your peers focus on the scriptures?
Renee: Yes. The Word is powerful, and we can stand on it. It teaches us what to do with our lives and how to live.

Dawn: Do you feel you’ve been successful with getting the book into their hands?
Renee: I have sold over 7,500 copies within two months of its release. God is good!

Dawn: Wow! Any new books on the horizon?
Renee: I am writing my next book on brokenness. It’s a memoir on suffering, and I’m including interviews of other broken 20-somethings to show God’s glory and triumph over brokenness. I chose this topic because I had to find another way to live. Actually, I’ve had to redo my life more than four times now, because of my serious health issues and God’s call on my life. I realized that I’m not alone, and there are many other people struggling who could use the same help, strength, and encouragement that I have received from staying close to God—even when I haven’t felt like it.

Dawn: What do you think are the toughest choices for 20-somethings today?
Renee: Sex. Lust. Drugs. Pregnancy. STDs. Broken hearts. Finances. Identity. Relationships. People pleasing. Job changes.

Dawn: Lots of those things affect older people, too! When you are 50 and looking back on your life, which of your choices do you think will have made the biggest impact?
Renee: Walking away from a job I loved and relationships that satisfied in the moment was tough; but I know those choices will all be worthwhile, because I didn’t pollute the message I have to say. God created me to send me out; and I need to be mindful and obedient to my calling, no matter how narrow and misunderstood I feel.

Dawn: I know you've struggled with fear for some time.
Renee: Yes, my life has been hung up on fear since I can remember; but 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “Do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-discipline.” This is something I carry with me. I remind myself daily.

Dawn: Any parting words for 20-somethings? For all of us?
Renee: Spend time in the Word. Daily. Period.

To read more by Renee, check out her daily blog, Devo Diva. Get her book, Faithbook of Jesus, too!

5/5/10

Culture-Sick Greeting Cards

Greeting cards came on the scene some 150 years ago—mostly sentimental verses or simple humor; but in last decade or so, greeting cards have changed dramatically. It started with locker-room humor and has escalated to soft porn. Many times the offensive cards are displayed right next to wholesome cards low on card racks, at toddlers’ eye level.

Lauren Green at FOXNews.com quoted Chris Gacek of Family Research Council in an article titled “Greeting Cards Gone Wild.” Gacek said, “If you’d shown these to my grandmother 40 years ago, she would have been in shock.” Greeting cards with lewd poems and verses show bare bottoms and scantily-clad women. Green referenced a card with a couple entwined in bed with details of a sexual fantasy. It’s “prominently displayed close to wholesome birthday cards for friends and family,” she said.

Some of the steamy cards have already been pulled from shelves, but that doesn’t mean parents can let up their guard. The greeting card industry has no controls, such as those that monitor television, radio, and movies. Jack Withiam of the Executive Greeting Card Association argues that government controls would amount to violation of freedom of speech. Hallmark spokeswoman Linda O’Dell agreed, saying, “Cards have always reflected what’s going on in the culture.”

Exactly. Greeting cards are like a chart at the foot of a hospital bed revealing a sick culture of filth and immorality. And it’s not just pervasive sexual images. Cards also reflect a non-biblical perception of gender roles. Hallmark Cards rolled out a line of same-sex wedding cards and "coming out" cards in 2008 with the goal of being "as relevant as possible" to as many people as possible. It’s suggested that the greeting card industry is simply reaching out to different kinds of people with different needs. “Our intention is to have a wide variety in the spirit of kindness,” O’Dell explained. It’s sexual license wrapped in "tolerance."

Gacek admits that it’s hard to regulate the greeting card industry, but suggested a couple of ways to deal with them: “The industry might segregate those cards,” he said. Or perhaps stores could “put them in a wrapper or something, so you know something about them or avoid them.”

And that’s where Christians and other concerned citizens can make a difference. We can suggest that stores be responsible, and particularly place these cards where children cannot see or have access to them. Christians must take a stand against pornography wherever they find it and at whatever level it presents itself, before it escalates into something worse. The National Coalition Against Pornography reports that there are more outlets for pornography in the United States than McDonald’s restaurants, and we don’t need greeting card stores adding to that problem.

What choices can we make to curb the inroads of pornography in our culture? (1) Before we take our "stand," we need to get on our knees and seek God. We need to examine our own hearts for any compromise with wickedness. (2) We must act as salt and light in our wicked culture (Matt. 5:13-14), speaking the truth in love, especially to store owners who may feel pressure to carry these cards. (3) We need to support legislation that battles porn.

Pornography perverts everything that is good and holy, and it destroys our children's innocence. Porn is a lie; it promises lasting excitement (Proverbs 9:17), yet can't deliver. We can rationalize these cards as being a "little thing," but there are consequences to every sinful choice (Prov. 14:12).