As we prepare for the 63rd annual National Day of Prayer on May 1, 2014, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on what God has done and continues to do across our nation. The 62nd annual National Day of Prayer was perhaps the greatest mobilization of the church in America since the Jesus Movement or the Fulton Street Revival of 1857. In Washington D.C., the National Observance launched a wave of prayer that that spread to over 42,000 unique gatherings from coast to coast and a message of revival and personal commitment was delivered passionately. Jeremiah 1:9 and Isaiah 51:16 says that the Lord will put His words to the mouth of those He has called to speak truth into this culture of moral relativism and indeed, He did just that. Not one but four keynote speakers at events across Capital Hill spoke boldly of sacrifice that was needed, starting in their own lives, to take a stand for what they believed. They found themselves at a crossroads where their action was to be symbolic of the level of their faith. It meant personal sacrifice for the cause of Christ and they did so without looking back or wavering. Their stories will be forever shared as a testament to personal transformation and the expectation that God has for each of us. Keep reading and I will summarize them for you to the best of my ability. Finding the words to properly express the hearts of these men will be challenging, but I trust you will understand as I attempt to capture the essence of the underlining theme.
In his essay, “Christian Behavior,” C.S. Lewis writes, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”3 The sacrifice of the temporal for the eternal is what separates the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3). There is no room for lukewarm believers in God’s kingdom. As Revelation 3:16 states, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (nasb).
God wants our very best – He wants our all. If we do not stand up for truth, who will? If you do not hold the line, who will? In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan illustrates what this means:
When I was in high school, I seriously considered joining the Marines; this was when they first came out with the commercials for “the few, the proud, the Marines.” But you know what? I didn’t bother to ask if they would modify the rules for me so I could run less, and maybe also do fewer push-ups. That would’ve been pointless and stupid, and I knew it. Everyone knows that if you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you. They own you. Somehow this realization does not cross over to our thinking about the Christian life. Jesus didn’t say that if you wanted to follow Him you could do it in a lukewarm manner. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
Either you’re going to stand boldly for the Lord or you’re not. Christ was confronted with people who were too comfortable with their lives, and He challenged them. He told a son to leave his family and follow Him (Matt 8:21–22). He told a wealthy man that to follow Him would mean total sacrifice, stressing that even the Son of Man didn’t have a pillow to lay His head upon (Matt 8:18–20). He told another that he should sell all that he had and give to the poor (Matt 19:16–30). In each case, these eager men were cut to their heart because they wanted to be good but not great. They weren’t willing to go all the way. But Jesus promises a reward for full commitment: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29–30). He is not asking us to ditch our families in this statement. Rather, he is challenging us to look inward to truly examine and evaluate our priorities. Is there something that we hold in higher regard or value than our love for God? What you find in your heart may hurt a little when you consider the true cost of following Christ.
It truly seems that the world is restless and only His people, in humble petition for revival will make a difference. Indeed, as a pastor, I am witnessing a vast departure from the spiritual starvation that has left people hungering for the rich, deep truth of the Scripture – a return to the ideas of what it means to take up the cross and follow Him. Resonating with the powerful words of Francis Chan and David Platt, there is a transformation in the culture with masses stepping out of the lukewarm waters of diluted, self-help Christianity into a reverent return to solemn assembly and sacrificial devotion to the King of Kings. The revelation of our own depravity from years of lip-service has finally brought to light the words of Isaiah 29:13 and Matthew 15:8 that we have come to him with honoring lips but our heart has been far from Him. There is no more room for secular Christianity. As E. M. Bounds stated in his powerful book The Weapon of Prayer,
A breed of Christian is greatly needed who will seek tirelessly after God, who will give Him no rest, day and night, until He hearken to their cry. The times demand praying men and women who are all athirst for God’s glory, who are broad and unselfish in their desires, quenchless for God, who seek Him late and early, and who will give themselves no rest until the whole earth be filled with His glory.
To me the great cultural chasm is growing wider between those who claim their devotion to Christ and those who are choosing the path of the world. It is time for men and women to decide to whom they will give their allegiance and indeed the time grows short. The hour of decision is upon us as a society and it is one of eternal consequence. When the heat turns up in this society—and it most certainly will—are you going to be willing to walk into the furnace for your faith or step into the lion’s den? Will you be willing to give it all for Him? The Holy Spirit will give you strength when that moment comes (Acts 7:54–60), but you must take the first step. I tell people to start getting used to the lion’s breath when they take a stand for the Lord because the enemy is a roaring lion according to the Scriptures (1 Peter 5:8). But, take heart for we face a defeated enemy so let him roar all he wants to. After a while his growl will weaken and you will no longer be intimidated by a losing foe. Adrian Rogers said, “Satan’s real war is not with you … it is with God. Evil persons have always known that if they cannot harm someone directly, harm someone that they love and you’ve hurt them. Satan’s war is with God, but he has set his attack on you because God has set His affection on you.”Satan wants you in a constant state of fear because he wants you to begin to doubt God’s provision, God’s promises, and God’s love for you.
So, here is the black and white truth. You have now read content that leaves you with a decision to make and nothing is coincidental. You have now invested time into reading the words aligned before you. They will either convict your soul and reshape your prayer life, the way you spend your resources, the way you vote, the way you prioritize and the way you live, especially in bold declaration of truth. Or, you will tune them out and go about the busyness of your daily existence. You may suddenly feel pressed, even guilty, by the overwhelming feeling that God has burdened you with information that presents a seemingly daunting assignment that forces you to make immediate changes…and you weren’t ready for that. Well, let me paint a picture for you of the kind of warrior God uses in His army. At the 2013 National Observance, the following men stood up before crowds of people and took a stand for their faith – putting their action where their faith was.
Let’s begin with Craig Dance. Craig is the President of Champion Coach, a premier athlete transportation company. They specialize in moving professional and collegiate teams to their destinations. Name the team and chances are they have the contract. Well, Mr. Dance was given a lucrative contract to purchase, equip and wrap large tour buses to create a mobile studio for CBS Sports. It was a highlight for his company. However, with that contract, another opportunity came and it was to be the sole transportation provider for all of CBS Television. That meant his buses, utilized by the network, would be fully wrapped and outfitted for the network promotion and use. The president of CBS knew of Craig’s faith and days before it was Craig who was interviewed in the paper as being an owner of a Christian company with moral values. Well, Craig was convicted that he may be tested in this bold proclamation and indeed he was. CBS Television, despite a back and forth negotiation demanded that Champion Coach buses be wrapped with the fall lineup of shows, which included programming that was directly used for propaganda to promote alternative lifestyles to what he believed. But, Craig held steadfast knowing that it would mean he would lose the contract if he didn’t allow the wrap. He made several recommendations, they were denied and CBS pulled the contract. With it, however, went the CBS Sports contract as well. That meant Craig and his company were to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over his moral conviction. He didn’t hesitate to stand his ground and lost both contracts. It looked like the company would have to park several buses and start scaling back. Craig continued to pray and God brought more business than the company could handle and truly, it was a Deuteronomy 28 revelation before their very eyes. But, Craig testifies that he had to take a stand despite the fear of losing his business. God blessed as a result.
Next it was Russell Branzell who took the stage. Russ is the President and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. He has a distinguished resume and includes his time as CEO of one of the largest Medical Groups in the United States. It was Russ who drove the chisel further into the crusted shell of our hearts by defining the addiction most men face… the drive for power. He had to confront the very hunger that most leaders crave for influence, respect, control, possessions and yes, power itself. It was this hidden root within most entrepreneurs that he recognized to be the source of his broken family life. He transparently opened his heart to us all about his long hours, personal commitment to success and the drive that pushed God into the to do list of good intentions and not into the category of personal relationship. He was so convicted by the realization of truth and God’s expectations of him that he sold his possessions, streamlined, prioritized time with God and family and as a result, changed careers, giving up the prestige, income and status that he was subconsciously driven by. Those things were his idols and if we are honest with ourselves, many of ours as well. Just as God withheld blessing to His people because of the hidden sin of Achan, when they went to take Ai (see Joshua 6-7), God revealed to Russ the very thing that was preventing him from being complete in Him and money was not the blessing he craved. It was the blessing of a Holy Father saying, “well done my good and faithful servant.” Well done, my son. Russ now enjoys a healthy family life, a restored marriage, a renewal of his personal health and satisfaction with his life that is in alignment to God’s will.
That evening, Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby (son of David Green, CEO and Founder), stood boldly for his faith expressing that his companies would not compromise on Biblical directives with regard to life. They are in the midst of a heated discussion with officials over the mandate to businesses to provide contraceptives, which goes against their pro-life position. He said the result could cost them more than one million dollars each and every day, but there “is no price tag on life” as Steve Green boldly professed on a prayer call that evening. As the Charlotte Observer reported, Hobby Lobby maintains that some birth control products, such as the morning-after pill, are equivalent to abortion. The company has sued the government on religious freedom grounds. Hobby Lobby still potentially faces millions in fines for not following the mandate. With 13,000 employees and a proposed fine of $100 per employee per day, that would equate to $1.3 million in daily fines.
“I could never have imagined we’d be where we are,” Green said. Founded and privately held by the Green family, Hobby Lobby is committed to operate according to biblical, Christian principles. Although Green said he couldn’t discuss the lawsuit, he said he expects a long slog through the court system. “I just say there’s going to be an extensive court discussion and battle,” he said in response to an audience question. “In the meantime, all I know to ask for is prayers.” Our prayers continue to be with him and the companies under his leadership as they take a stand in the gap for all businesses, large and small, as they face mounting pressures to compromise their moral and faith-based convictions.
Finally, in the aftermath of a heart-felt message from Pastor Greg Laurie, Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer calling for revival across the land, it was Rear Admiral William D. Lee, who serves as the Deputy of Operations Policy and Capabilities for the U.S. Coast Guard, who, on stage, made a potentially career altering declaration. William Lee stood at the microphone and said that he had 10 minutes of carefully prepared remarks ready but decided to “speak from the heart” instead. He told the story of so many servicemen searching for reasons to live, and talked about one 24-year-old who had tried to commit suicide and failed. Despite the protocol, Lee said he felt strongly that he should give the soldier a Bible. “The lawyers tell me that if I do that, I’m crossing the line,” he told the crowd. “I’m so glad I’ve crossed that line so many times.” To a standing ovation, Admiral Lee promised not to back down from “my right under the Constitution to tell a young man that there is hope.” He went on to speak of the need for service men and women to stand boldly for faith, “as one general so aptly put it – they expect us to check our religion in at the door – don’t bring that here,” Rear Admiral William Lee told the captive audience. “Leaders like myself are feeling the constraints of rules and regulations and guidance issued by lawyers that put us in a tighter and tighter box regarding our constitutional right to express our religious faith.” He went on to convey that a battle in the courts was fast approaching and we needed to be in prayer. “Your armed forces, the sons and daughters of the men and women like you,” he said, “are being told to hide that light under a basket…Pray that we will be able to weather the storm that I am almost certain will come – that we will not be required to put aside our Constitutional rights,” he said. Right before our eyes, a man was putting his reputation and career on the line for his faith and it was five, yes five standing ovations that continued to reinforce to him that we would stand with him through thick and thin as he endures to fight the good fight on the front lines.
The messages were convicting but we must pray that the transforming spirit of God will go forward and lives be changed as a result of obedience by these men of deep, personal faith. If you or anyone you know would like to hear these messages now, then follow the links below to listen and share:
1) Men’s Prayer Gathering at the Family Research Building (featuring Craig Dance and Russell Branzell)
2) National Observance (featuring Greg Laurie and Rear Admiral William D. Lee)
- John Bornschein, Vice Chairman