6/29/11

What About the Founding Mothers?

As I was writing a patriotic blog post for Independence Day a week ago, I mentioned the Founding Fathers.

Suddenly, I thought,
"What about the Founding Mothers?" Who were the women who stood behind their men as these courageous gentlemen shaped America's beginnings.

It's not a new thought. ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts wrote a book, Founding Mothers (which I do not necessarily endorse) that explores the work of women during those early years during America's Revolution. She wrote about the women who disguised themselves, raised money for the war efforts, spied, propagandized, and sacrificed alongside the men. Surely, these women were brave and purposeful.

I wondered about the wives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence ~ what they had to do as their husbands stood strong in the face of the enemy. I read the history of the signers themselves, these men who "pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." When I read the "history" of these men (and especially how they suffered), I was thankful for their great sacrifice.

And then I read various (controversial) stories about their wives and children; and though I am not sure that they suffered quite the way some writers have expressed, it is clear that these dedicated families often had to sacrifice for our freedom along with the men. As I read about them, I wondered whether I would have their courage; but these were people who counted freedom dear. Perhaps we have forgotten how precious that freedom is. These were people who knew their rights ultimately came from God, and they fought to preserve those rights!

First Lady Abigail Adams, who grew up in her father's parsonage, said, "A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest man without the fear of God. Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real Good Will towards Men? Can he be a patriot who, by an openly vicious conduct, is undermining the very bonds of society?.... The Scriptures tell us, 'righteousness exalteth a nation.'" [Proverbs 14:34]

And as the city of Charleston laid in ashes, Abigail prayed, "Almighty God, cover the heads of our countrymen, and be a shield to our dear friends ...." She knew to call upon God for help.

Every woman of spiritual courage knows where her strength lies. I think of Queen Esther in the Old Testament, a woman come to her nation "for such a time as this" ~ for such a time that God intended to use her to rescue her people and her country. Though she appealed to the king, no doubt she first appealed to God.

We need women of strength today ... women who will stand for truth and fight for the spiritual freedom of their children against an enemy who wants to destroy their souls ... women who will stand by their husbands as they battle against the political, moral, and spiritual corruption in our nation. The scriptures teach, "...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36 ESV), but the enemy desires to enslave our souls and destroy our homes, churches, and nation.

The Bible says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12); but "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3)

We need women of passion, courage, insight, and deep faith. Women who will pray and work until America returns to her biblical foundations. Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The same could and should be said concerning good women.

God helping me, I will be a woman like that, no matter the cost. Who is with me?

6/22/11

Embracing My Grandmotherhood

I love being a "Grammy" and enjoying fun, family gatherings ... and especially quiet times alone with each grandchild.

As we sat as an extended family around a campfire on Father's Day, roasting marshmallows for s'mores, I watched my three granddaughters and smiled at their uniqueness. One raced in and out of the area ~ first taking a bicycle ride, then stopping to entertain family, and then scooting off again on the bicycle. Another, the youngest, stood with her hands on her cheeks, gazing at the fire and taking in with wide eyes the warmth and wonder of the blaze. The oldest roasted marshmallows to perfection for various family members.

LinkTwo days before, I'd taken this older granddaughter, Megan, to Sea World for the opening of Turtle Reef. We visited several shows, rode the rapids twice, ate at Shipwreck Cafe, and visited several displays before ending with the fireworks. At the end of the evening, as we "closed down" the park at 11 pm, we walked, exhausted, to the car. Megan put her arm around me and said, "Gram Cracker, this was a perfect day."

Oh, how I want more of those perfect days!

I spoke recently with Megan's other grandmother ~ Nana ~ and shared a book with her that I love. She was so intrigued by it, I had to give her a copy. The title of Sharon Hoffman's book ~ A Car Seat in My Convertible? (New Hope Publishers, 2008) ~ certainly piqued her interest, but it was the subtitle that captured her heart, as it did mine: Giving Your Grandkids the Spiritual Ride of Their Lives. It resonated. It's what this Grammy and Nana so desire for their grandchildren.

"Remember this," Hoffman wrote, "Everything we do can be a platform for honoring God and advancing His kingdom in the lives of our grandchildren; everyday moments can become teachable moments."

I did indeed remember Hoffman's words as I chatted with Megan at Sea World. In the car on the way and all through the park, we talked about choices and priorities. We discussed popularity. I listened to her heart as she talked about her dreams. We chatted about God's unique creations. It was, indeed, a perfect day.

The scriptures are full of admonitions for parents, but a few relate to grandparenting as well. I especially love Psalm 78:4, 6, which reminds us to share the things of God with our children and "the generation to come." What a joy to open their hearts and minds to eternal values.

I learned so many practical things in reading Hoffman's book. Here are a few jewels that motivate and encourage me:
  • "What a mighty influence we grandmoms possess when the love of a grandmother for her grandchild is connected with God's power through prayer!"
  • "While praying, I also like to 'hold their hand.' I place my hand on a crayon-traced handprint of their little hands that I've glued right on their individual page" [in a prayer journal].
  • Regarding busy grandmothers: "We must firmly establish in our own hearts what in life we need to hold on to and what we can let go of.... Ask God every day to allow you to see areas where you might be willing to rearrange your life to make it less busy and more available or accessible to the loved ones in your life."
  • "We can all serve the Lord in caring for our grandchildren through the so-called little things."
  • "Don't let go of your playfulness."
  • "Have a one-on-one conversation with the grandchild you're sensing needs it the most."
  • [And for the grandmother who struggles with her past or with issues of surrender today] "God's passionate display of love on Calvary's cross is for all the beaten down grandmoms."
The most important chapter in the book, perhaps, is near the end. A wise grandmother will want to leave her grandchildren and all who come after them a legacy of spiritual heirlooms. I wondered ~ what will my grandchildren "see" in the things I leave behind, and especially in the notes and markings in my Bible? What lasting treasures will they inherit?

Hoffman's book is like found gold. Nana and Grammy are working together to build a legacy of truth and godly values in the lives of their grandchildren, and Hoffman's book is a powerful, helpful tool.

6/15/11

America, Seriously Broken

Respected evangelical voices recently urged a return in America to God and biblical values. Franklin Graham wrote, "Our nation today is in trouble. We see moral decay spreading throughout the land. Our country is deteriorating rapidly, an ever-tightening spiral downward-financially, socially, and spiritually. America is decaying from within.

"The real problem," Graham said, "is that as a nation we have turned our backs on God, removing Him from schools, businesses, and government, and unfortunately, many a family has taken God out of their home as well. If this country hopes to make it through the enormous crises we now face, if we want America to be a nation worth leaving to our grandchildren, we have to turn back to God."

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, described the self-fulfilling behavior of Americans over the biblically moral responsibility to family as "narcissistic," "selfish," "destructive," and "self-idolatry." Land told The Christian Post that those who believe that there is no problem with America's value system are part of this country's moral decline, which is reaching a critical point.

"We're seriously broken and it's getting worse, and we're reaching a crisis point where we're either going to have to restore traditional American values ... or we're going to see our society denigrate," Land said.

According to that same article in The Christian Post, a national poll shows that "while Americans are still holding on to some traditional moral values, they have validated immoral behaviors that are self-satisfying." These "validated immoral behaviors" include those that focus on Americans "supposed rights and privileges," Land said.

For example, according to the poll, American's supposed "right to be loved" has led 69 percent of Americans to value divorce (69 percent), homosexual relations (56 percent), sex outside of marriage (60 percent) and having children outside of marriage (54 percent) as "morally acceptable behaviors."

The saddest part of the poll is the increase in the number of Americans who falsely believe the country's morality is excellent or good. Does it not grieve your heart that Americans are so deluded concerning sin?

I know in my heart that it only takes one person with a heart stirred by God to see the seeds of revival blossom in churches and communities.

I was moved recently, by a blog post by a pastor in Little Rock who was so burdened for the need for revival in America that he wrote a pointed blog post that ultimately lead to a powerful moving of God in his church.

The March 9 post, "Before I Die," spoke of Pastor Bill Elliff's desire for and dream of a national revival in God's church that would change the culture. He said he believed God is powerful enough to repeat history and bring much-needed revival "in spite of our sin and weakness and our fears and traditions." It's a dream, he said, that he's "not giving up on" until he dies.

I know this man. His words in a "Revival Week" message at Life Action Ministries a few years ago ~ "Everything flows from the presence of God" ~ changed my perspective on abiding in Christ versus "performance." So I know that his words concerning revival were not the words of a pastor who was not prepared to back up his message with prayer and passion for souls. It is not surprising to read on the Summit Church blog, that things started happening.

By April 10th, he wrote about the experience of not quenching the Spirit of God in just one worship service on a Sunday morning. That was followed by a series of posts ~ reports of God's Mercies ~ that detailed the power of God in the lives of his church members and others in his community who God touched with the desire to become broken, surrendered, holy people. The last time I read the reports (May 15th, 2011), the stirrings continued. Pastors in Little Rock were working together, sensing God's movement and planning special times of joint and individual church prayer for revival.

Again, stirrings of national revival begin small, often with one man.

I had the privilege of serving with a man who cared deeply about America's need for revival. Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., founder of Life Action Ministries (now deceased), once said, "Revival, no matter how great or small in its ultimate scope, always begins with individual believers whose hearts are desperate for God, and who are willing to pay the price to meet Him."

He believed that "Nothing short of an outpouring of God's Spirit will revitalize and empower an impotent and anemic church to display once again His glory to a lost world."

We are so lost in America. In spite of our many churches, our people are disintegrating from within, and the enemy rejoices. We flirt with spiritual ideas while enjoying and toying with our sins.

This week, as I looked through some statistics about pornography, adultery, divorce and other "big" sins ~ and then read about America's obsession with so-called "little" sins like overeating and hoarding ~ the ugliness hit me hard. We are seriously broken people, and bound for judgment, because God cannot tolerate our sin.

Fehsenfeld said, "The only thing that is going to stop the onslaught of God's judgment in America is a genuine revival in the Church."

"God wants to avert judgment," he said "and He's simply looking for one person who will pay the price in prayer and in faith and in commitment, whatever it takes, to get a hold of God and not let loose."

Pastor Elliff is one such man. Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., was one such man, and I believe his successor, Byron Paulus, Executive Director of Life Action, has their same heart. Paulus wrote, "Authentic moves of God originate in hearts that are desperate for God and His glory."

God is looking for other men and women with the same heartbeat for revival. The nation's healing begins with God's people (2 Chronicles 7:14) before it can flow to others.

I'm asking myself this question: Do you have a desperate heart for God? And I ask you the same question, if you are reading this today. Are you desperate for God? Are you willing to pay the price for holiness in your own life and the life of your church? Are you willing to pray for revival and not let go until it comes?

Fehsenfeld often closed his messages with heart-searching questions, and I believe he would invite us to ask ourselves this telling question today:

"If revival depended on me (my prayers, my faith, my obedience), would America ever experience revival?"

America is seriously broken, friends, and only God can heal her.

6/8/11

Broken for Us

An old Jewish Proverb suggests, "If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."

The Jews will remember that terrible Kristallnacht ~ the Night of Broken Glass ~ one of a series of attacks when Nazi stormtroopers and Nazi-sympathizing civilians ~ as part of their attempt to make Germany "judenfrei" (Jew free). On November 9, 1938, the Nazi's destroyed buildings in Germany and Austria, leaving the streets littered with smashed windows. The damage to shop windows was estimated at $4 million.

It was a night of horror. Synagogues were ransacked and burned. During the night, 91 Jews were murdered, women were raped, and 30,000 were arrested and sent to camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen. The broken glass symbolizes the attempt of the Nazis to break the Jewish people.

Yet in spite of all the hatred, the Jewish people live on. There are still those who are intent on destroying Israel, but the Jews' spirit to survive is remarkable, and God has always kept a remnant alive for His glory. The Jewish people are a testimony to God's faithfulness to His covenants.

But, as a Christ-follower, when I read that Jewish proverb, I thought of something else. The first part says, "If God lived on earth." I immediately thought, "God did live on earth ~ in the person of His Son."

LinkAnd when Jesus came, those who hated Him did more than break windows. They beat and lashed His body. They tried to break His will. They scoffed. They spit in His face and mocked the "King." But the enemy never broke Jesus' commitment to do His Father's will (Psalm 40:7; John 4:34; 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:29; 17:4; Hebrews 10:7; Matthew 26:39).

When we celebrate communion, the bread and wine (or juice) symbolize that, on the cross, our Savior's body was broken and His precious blood shed ~ for us (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

Jesus' body was broken because He wanted it that way. He came to do the Father's will and redeem us. And He is alive today, glorifying His Father and interceding for us.

Broken for us: the beginning of the New Covenant ~ and we have a covenant-keeping God. Do we understand the significance? Do we forget, in the midst of our temptations, that His sacrifice was costly? God help us to be more thankful, and more concerned about personal purity.

6/1/11

A Lesson from Bin Laden's Porn

It's not surprising that the press mocked and Christian leaders wrote about the porn stash found at Osama bin Laden's compound, but it is surprising that bin Laden even had the stash. After all, some years ago he attacked the US for its lax sexual standards.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote about bin Laden's "stash"and quoted bin Laden's "Letter to the American People" back in 2002. Bin Laden wrote: "You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire."

While pointing out bin Laden's hypocrisy, Mohler was also quick to note the truth in bin Laden's words. America does export considerable pornography to the world, and the Internet has made it available to every home. Mohler's warning was especially to Christian ascetics who deny themselves in some areas, but then believe they can indulge in other "satisfactions" ... "sinful enjoyments."

"Bin Laden and his associates must have been convinced that Allah would forgive them their sexual sins," Mohler said, "because of their faithfulness in carrying out acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. Christians had better see this as a warning lest we allow ourselves the same kind of rationalization."

Sadly, some Christians have become closet porn addicts. According to a blog post, "Pastors and Porn," Patrick Means, in his book, "Men's Secret Wars," revealed a confidential survey of evangelical pastors and church lay leaders, and 64% of the surveyed Christian leaders confirmed that they are struggling with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion or secret sexual activity. According to "Porn Again," an article by Mark Bergin in World magazine, "One in seven calls to Focus on the Family's Pastoral Care Hotline is related to internet pornography."

What might be shocking to some is that women, even young girls, are caught up in the ugliness of viewing pornography. It's not just a male addiction anymore. I read about a woman recently, in Dirty Girls Come Clean, who struggled with it. She grew up in a Christian home, but found an Internet site and her curiosity led to deeper and deeper levels of smut until she was hooked. She continued all her Christian activities and ministries, but knew that, deep in her heart, she was "dirty."

Dirty Girls author Crystal Renaud ~ who claims the average age a child first sees pornography is age eleven ~ quotes from Ramona Richards' article, "Dirty Little Secret: Men Aren't the Only Ones Lured by Internet Porn": "One out of every six women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography" and "17 percent of all women struggle with pornography addiction." Seeking relationship, they start with cybersex and online chatrooms, but eventually progress to deeper levels.

Porn's availability is one factor. In 2005, reporter Mike Musgrove wrote in The Washington Post, "Pornography is spreading from the computer desktop to the small screen, to pocket-sized devices such as cell phones, digital music players, and portable game players." He noted that the sale of adult entertainment for downloading to cell phones was already a multi-million-dollar business in Europe, and now it has spread around the world as porn peddlers take advantage of every technological advancement.

Gilbert Herdt, director of the National Sexuality Resource Center, explained how porn has made inroads into Americans' everyday lifestyle: "What we once called porn is just mainstream sex now, and what we think of as pornography has shrunk to a tiny, tiny area. We've expanded the envelope of normative sex so much that there's not much room for 'porn' anymore."

The scriptures teach us to be careful in regard to what we see ~ what becomes etched into our mind. The patriarch Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes" (Job 31:1a), and the Psalmist said, "I will not look with approval on anything that is vile" (Psalm 101:3). Our mind is to be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2a).

God's grace and forgiveness are rich, and there is victory for the one who walks the hard path to overcome porn addiction. It begins with a surrendered heart, but also includes sincere repentance and confession of sin, accountability, and a plan for responsible choices. Renaud includes "sharing" as part of the healing process.

My deepest concern is for Christians caught in the enemy's traps, hiding pornography addiction. There is hope in Christ. It is real. I admit that I'm not an authority on the topic. While I do not endorse any ministry, readers may find Renaud's book and ministry helpful, as well as Pure Intimacy (Focus on the Family). Winning Edge Ministries is dedicated to restoring fallen pastors and religious leaders.

Healing must begin in the heart ~ not only desiring to be free, but willing to surrender to God and make the choices necessary to overcome sin's control. My prayer is that Christians will not be like bin Laden ~ espousing purity and strong moral choices on one hand, and embracing the filth of pornography and sexual addiction on the other. The Bible exhorts Christians to look for their returning Savior, and we are to be pure, as He is pure (1 John 3:3).