A Prayer for San Bernardino

We all are impacted in some way as we hear of the senseless tragedy in San Bernardino.  We hear the political voices clamoring over one another telling us the solution is found in gun control.  NO… it is found in closing the border.  Not quite, we need to redouble our effort in bombing ISIS.  Whoa-we are way off!  We need to double or even triple the funds going into mental health and we need to reopen public facilities that were shuttered in the 80’s to house those with severe psychological issues.

I am certainly not opposed to every solution mentioned.  No doubt, there are things that need to be done by our society but the church has historically been a place for people who are shell-shocked and struggling to come and to make sense of tragedy.  We reflect, we spend time dwelling with one another.  Most importantly, we pray, and pray and pray some more.

We pray for God to work in a miraculous way among those who are most impacted.  We pray for God to pick up the pieces of this broken world and do something amazing with them.  We pray for the Holy Spirit to so impact us that we move forward with the love of God, despite the hatred and malevolence that hits us head on.  We even pray for our enemies, that God would impact them in such a way that they stop hating and they experience a change of heart and of mind.  (This in itself, is a huge miracle.)

Prayer has been and continues to be a major tool that church can offer our community.  And today, we have people attacking this.  They tell us that we need more than “empty and meaningless prayers.”  We need to be active in doing something not just putting up words into the sky to a God that does not exist or does not care. 

Hear me clearly, these naysayers are so far off the mark.  Church, don’t stop praying.  PRAYER CHANGES THINGS!!  Prayer makes a difference in you and in the world around you. 

You cannot control most happenings in this world.  We cannot control a crazed gunman who hunts down people and executes them.  We cannot control the ideology of whole tribes of people on another continent and how they choose to respond to neighboring people.  We cannot control the speech of a religious leader in Europe or the Mideast or even in our own backyard.

So focus yourself on the things you can control.  You can control your heart.  Do you find yourself being a peacemaker, being salt and light?  Are you a reliable voice for our Savior?   Does your speech match the rhetoric of Jesus when he walked the earth?

Focus on the things you can control.  You can control the people you connect with.  Are you connecting with people who champion the things of God?  Does your circle cheer you and your family on as you aspire to live out the gospel?

Focus on the things you can control.  While I cannot control the world and the events that so often devastate people, I can control the prayers that I share with my heavenly Father.  I can pray, even when voices in our culture mock and disdain me for doing so.

Yes tonight, I prayer for those who have lost loved ones in San Bernardino.

I pray for the people who have been injured, and will carry the scars from that terrible day for the rest of their lives.

I pray for the people who were on sight at the time of the shooting.

I pray for the first responders.  I pray for the police and FBI as they are trying to learn from and investigate the scene.

I pray for the reporters that they report accurately without political tinges.

I pray for the politicians as they lead us through this crisis and not move us toward their specific leaning.

I pray for those who identify with the evildoer.  Would they come to see these actions for what they are…futile.  And would God work in their hearts and lives the peace that Jesus offers.

Would you join me in this prayer today?

50 Shades

Several years ago, Dana and I got away for a little R & R, as is our custom.  We typically design our vacations to be as low impact as possible with little drama and more often than not little adventure.  Our normal lives have enough adventure and drama, so we don’t need to schedule more of it in our lives.  A typical vacation has a few common elements for us a beach, the sun and surf and usually a couple of great books.  On this particular trip, I chose a fairly new book called Hunger Games to be my read.  While on the beach talking to other couples, I discovered another book that was being read by almost every woman at the resort, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Literarily, it was more than a cult following, it was an explosive, commercial success.  We are seeing that book translated to the screen.  No doubt, lots of church goers have read the book and lots of these same folks are buying tickets to download the philosophy of this book into their lives as they absorb the images on the big screen.

How should we as Christ followers process and interact with material like Fifty Shades?  Craig Gross is the pastor of XXX Church in Las Vegas.   His ministry is internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities on pornography and adult entertainment.  He regularly speaks into the church about subjects we would rather ignore.  He recently wrote about this movie and it helped me process and think about this subject and how it affects many of the people entering into our church doors every Sunday. 

With permission, I have reprinted Craig’s blog for you to check out.

-Tony

I don’t read fiction. Ever. I haven’t since high school, and even in high school, I opted for the Cliff’s Notes. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I heard about it (and have even commented on it over the years) but never opened the book. I never even skimmed it. I have friends who have and have filled me in.

I thought it was a fantasy book about a guy with some crazy desires for some violent sex. I was blown away to learn it sold 100 million copies, and when the movie grossed $260 million worldwide this weekend, I became even more fascinated.

So I went to see the movie. I went with my wife, to the noon showing at the mall by our house. It was packed. I can’t believe how many people were seeing this movie on a Wednesday afternoon.

So what’d I think?
I didn’t hate the movie.
I did hate Christian Grey.

I didn’t walk out or picket, but I watched the whole movie because I wanted to better understand why this has resonated with so many. Why is Christian Grey someone that women are cheering on and fantasizing about? Why does my own mother at 66 years old connect with this story and feel like she “missed out” on something in her sex life.

As I write this, the movie finished two hours ago, and I’m still upset over what I just saw. Not some young woman being tied up, but Christian Grey himself. Let me explain.

Christian Grey was born to a prostitute/crack addict and put up for adoption.
Christian Grey was sexually abused by an older lady from the ages of 15 to 21.
Christian Grey was introduced to BDSM and forced to be a “submissive” for a number of years.
Christian Grey is very successful, rich, and powerful in his job.
Christian Grey has everything he needs and more, but deep down inside you can tell is not happy or fulfilled.
Christian Grey is used to getting what he wants and no one tells him no.
Christian Grey has had over 15 sexual partners that we know of.
Christian Grey does not “make love,” he “f*cks… hard.”
Christian Grey does not like to be touched.
Christian Grey gives things to get sex.
Christian Grey is abusive, controlling, dominant, and invasive.
Aside from his looks, money, and power, Christian Grey is the worst boyfriend imaginable.

Anastasia Steele is a virgin.
Anastasia Steele is infatuated with Christian Grey.
Anastasia Steele enjoys being pursued.
Anastasia Steele obviously is uncomfortable with the sexual experiences Christian Grey is wanting.
Anastasia Steele is constantly pushed to give in to the sexual requests of Christian Grey
Anastasia Steele is given more things in order to submit to Christian Grey’s sexual requests.
Anastasia Steele desires a relationship but gives sex hoping to get the relationship.

So, for those who have not read the book or watched the movie, you’re up to speed so far. Christian has a “contract” he tries to get Ana to sign, a contract that explains what she will and won’t do sexually and what she is and is not allowed to do outside the bedroom. In exchange for the signing the contract, she can move into the house and get all the benefits of being with Mr. Grey.

I get from the movie that Anastasia is not interested in sex so much as she is Christian Grey, and I think that is pretty normal for most women I meet that are pursuing men. (The famous saying, after all, is that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.) But in this movie, Christian is not willing to negotiate. He is not willing to show love or be attached. In fact, Anastasia is not even allowed to sleep in the same room or bed with him. She really is just his sex slave. She won’t sign the contract and at one point he gets so desperate he offers, “If you sign this, I will give you one night out a week as a couple. We will got out to dinner and go see a movie like boyfriends and girlfriends do.

Enough about the movie. Here are some takeaways and things I am left not understanding.

- Marriage only works when both sides give and both sides take, and sex is the same way. Men and women have needs and desires, and marriage and the marriage bed is a place to have those fulfilled. If you are with someone and they don’t take into consideration your needs and only demand things from you, then get the heck out of that relationship if you’re dating. If you’re married, then head to a counselor.

- Most people who abuse others were abused as children. The best available research suggest that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. Christian Grey was abused as a child, a horrendous act that he never got over or dealt with or talked with anyone about. This has led him to some serious walls that have gone up in his life. and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to abuse someone else. He has done this to over 15 women and will continue. I heard this story was about sex, but this story at its core is about a broken man and his inability to love and be loved. How do people reading this book or watching this movie not see this? This is not a love story. This is not even an erotic story.  This is a story of broken people continuing a cycle of dysfunction in their lives rather than dealing with their issues.

- The Bible says I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I am not against being playful or doing things to spice up things in your bedroom, but the question I always have is why? Why do you think you need that? If both people agree to try different things in the bedroom, I am all for that. Christian Grey, on the other hand, is dealing with his pain by inflicting pain onto someone else who is visibility uncomfortable with it. He has trouble at work one day, so he sends Anastasia to the “play room” to take out his frustrations on her. If your partner is asking you to do something or try something new in the bedroom, my advice to you would be to ask why. The reason behind the ask is the deeper issue than the act itself. In a lot of cases it might just be a fun thing – or it might be a case like Christian Grey where he wants to avoid dealing with his own pain.

- “Why don’t you try things my way?” Christian never wants to try things Anastasia’s way. I think that would be a better movie, but he insists she does what he wants. If you are in a relationship and your partner makes demands and pressures you to do things you don’t want to do, then say NO.

Many people won’t understand this, but because I’ve seen the inner workings of the adult industry, this movie didn’t turn me on – it made me mad.  The sex shown in the movie is violent and not love-making, and I don’t understand how 100 million people can read this book and think there is anything sexy about Mr. Christian Grey. If he was broke, ugly, and had a hard drive of porn instead of a “playroom” in his house, every women reading this would be freaked out enough to stay away from him forever. The books and movie have painted a sick disturbed man as a sex symbol that many, many women have gone crazy over.

So I leave even more confused.

Why? Why does my 66-year-old mom feel she missed out? Why is this unhealthy domination held up as an ideal? Why do so many men and women still not realize the greatest sex you can possibly have is by learning how to serve one another, discovering how to give to your partner and receive from them as well?

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, don’t. Instead of wasting that time examining this unhealthy dynamic, spend those hours talking with your spouse about sex. Talk about what you desire, what you think is missing. What your history with sex was. How you missed or messed up or abused sex prior to marriage. Talk about your expectations for sex and whether they’re being met or not. Don’t know how to start those conversations? We have a course called bestsexlifenow.com; watch the first video for free, and I assure you it will lead to so many productive conversations. Maybe even fifty of them.

God Bless,

@Craiggross

View this blog on our site!

 

Where's the Buck?

Okay, so we started our journey looking at a Biblical perspective on money.  We are not going to serve money and we are not going to worship money.  We worship God and God alone.  At the same point, we won’t be scared of money, either.  Money is not good; it is not bad.  It is a tool that can be leveraged for God’s honor, building God’s kingdom.

Also, we looked at ways in which we live.  We don’t buy things we cannot pay for.  We embrace reality by preparing for emergencies.  We embrace discipline by not pretending that we are wealthy even though we cannot afford a certain lifestyle.  We embrace planning by creating a real budget and leveraging the power of the debt snow ball.

If the previous paragraphs leave you with questions, check out our past sermons on youtube to review.  You can navigate to them via our website, mynorthbridge.org.  Once you are out of crazy debt and get a little money, what should you do next?

Basically, there are two ways for you to make more money.  One way is working harder, working smarter or working longer to make more money.  You can put in more hours, or go back to school and get new proficiencies to add to your worth to your employer.  Or you can create more productivity that adds to your boss’s bottom line.

The other way to earn more money is when your money makes you money.  In other words, I am talking about investing.  You might not have any experience with this so I want to offer you some practical advice when it comes to investing.

The first piece of advice I can offer is to not invest in anything that you do not understand.  If someone is coming to you offering you the deal of the century and how you can increase your investment by ten-fold in just a few weeks, you better beware.  Begin learning about investment from a mentor. Find someone you trust that has made a little money over the years and start asking them how they did it, what kind of investments they use, and learn everything you can from them.  Find some good books and begin reading to learn what investing looks like in this world.

As you begin to learn some things and you find a mutual fund or a pension plan, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Ecclesiastes 11:2 teaches us to “Give portions to seven, yes to eight….”  In essence, spread things around a bit.  If you put your money into one option, one stock, one plan for investment and that one strategy falls apart, you will be in a lot of trouble.  Most investment tools such as pension plans, mutual funds and 401K’s give you the option to have a couple or several different funds in your plan. 

And the final thing I can say to you is, don’t try to get rich quickly.  When you are trying to make a fortune in a few years, you will take crazy risks.  Yep, some of them will pay off, but for everyone who makes it rich fast there are thousands who crash and burn. 

Instead use this math equation.

            Money + Time + Consistency = Wealth

Little by little, we tithe, pay our bills; knock out the debt; we are no longer strapped and in bondage to money. Then we get a pension or mutual fund and begin putting in 15% of our income, and over time we will gain wealth.

Here is an example of this principle working for us.

If you can save $5 a day - that is $35 a week - and invest that money, you would be amazed at what it would do.  (Let’s say you are getting 12% interest.)

At  five years, you would have $12,000.                                                                                                                        Ten years you would have $34,000.                                                                                                                   Twenty years, you have almost $150,000.                                                                                                              Thirty years into this venture you have $500,000.                                                                                               At forty years, (if you did this from 25 to 65) you would have $1.7 million.

Now I know any person experienced in investing would tell me that expecting 12% year after year is a pipe dream.  I have experienced loss some years, but I also have experienced 30 and 40% growth other years.  And okay, I could be wrong and maybe you only average 8 or 10%. Guess what, we are still talking about finishing well into the million dollar mark.

I pray that every single person reading this blog becomes a great investor and you become big-time rich.  I also pray you begin to invest in other areas of your life as well.  Jesus talked a lot about investing, but it was not about investing money to make himself more comfortable.  Jesus had a high calling to build the kingdom of God.  He has called you and me as well to this calling. 

I pray you invest in people and you invest in your marriage and family.  I pray you invest in your church. I pray you invest consistently over time and that you will be blessed with a rich family and marriage. I pray you have rich friendships. I pray you are rewarded for investing so well into your church, for the time, treasure and talents you invest in her.  Because the church is the hope for the world, given by God.

And if you do happen to get rich financially, and I pray you do so you can do a lot more for people and for the kingdom with more resources, remember it is not about you and your happiness and comfort.  We don’t serve money; we serve God.  Money can be a tool as we serve God.

Be blessed….

Pastor Tony

A Christian Response to Ebola

Wherever we go we are inundated about the Ebola outbreak in Africa, as well as the individual cases popping up here in America.  Political pundits are theorizing how the Ebola virus could affect politics this coming November.  I have read articles on the economic price that Ebola could cost the world.  I have even heard prognosticators talk about how travel patterns will be affected.  One area that seems to be silent is what should be the Christ-follower’s response to the Ebola threat.

Before we go any further in this writing, it is important to delineate what we know about this virus compared to what we think we know.  Lately, the CDC have said and done a lot of things that cause many in the public to become skeptical of their ability to handle this threat.  I can understand these feelings. 

Having noted this doubt, we can still trust the scientific information that the CDC has gathered about Ebola over the past several decades.  Here is what the CDC writes about Ebola:

Ebola is a rare severe disease, often fatal, caused by the Ebola virus. It is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids (e.g. saliva, urine) from infected people, dead or alive. This includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to seven weeks after they have recovered. You can also catch the disease from direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids from wild animals, dead or alive, such as monkeys, forest antelopes and bats.

Ebola virus does not transmit through the air as influenza does. After two days and up to 21 days following exposure to the virus the disease may start suddenly with fever, muscle aches, weakness, headache and sore throat. The next stage of the disease is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, rash and malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Some patients also have profuse internal and external bleeding and multi-organ failure. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for the disease.

Even if you are living in, or have traveled to, affected areas, the risk of infection with Ebola virus is extremely low, unless you have been directly exposed to bodily fluids of a dead or living infected person or animal. Contact with bodily fluids includes unprotected sexual contact with patients up to seven weeks after they have recovered. Casual contacts in public places with people that do not appear to be sick do not transmit Ebola. You cannot contract Ebola virus by handling money, groceries or swimming in a pool. Mosquitoes do not transmit the Ebola virus. Ebola virus is easily killed by soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. Machine washing clothes that have been contaminated with fluids will destroy Ebola virus. Ebola virus survives only a short time on surfaces that are in the sun or have dried.”

Okay, enough about the science of this virus.  If Jesus has taken possession of me to change every aspect of my life; surely He has a will and a desire for how I respond when dangers are before me and my family.  Doesn’t He?

What kind of attitude should the follower of Jesus have, how should we respond when we are reminded that this life and this world is only a temporary existence for us? 

I gotta admit, when hearing of the two nurses contracting this virus in Texas and how one of them traveled across county while having the virus, I did make a mental note of how long Dana, Dax and I could hole up in our home.  Where could we go to be alone; away from the contagion and the threats?  Do I have enough food to hoard when the panic sets in?  Do I have enough ammo and weapons to protect my stockpiles?

In essence, I wanted to flee my God given calling to impact this world.  I wanted to flee the culture God has placed me.  For a fleeting moment, I thought about “loosing my saltiness” or “placing a bowl over my light.”  (To better understand this reference read Matthew 5:13-16)  In essence, I wanted to run.  Do you know what else will run away in the face of danger?  Sheep.

Usually, when one sheep starts running in a flock, a chain reaction will occur and before long the whole herd is running.  They never have a master plan-they are just running away from what they think the danger is.  They have no clue if they are getting ready to run over a cliff or into the mouth of a waiting predator.  It is a scary thing indeed; to be a sheep with other sheep out in the wild, with all the threats lurking.

One thing I am reminded of is that sheep don’t survive long in the wild, but they will thrive under the care of a good shepherd.  A good shepherd feeds the sheep; a good shepherd cares for and defends the sheep.  A good shepherd will lead the sheep into safe pastures.  And I know that the sheep knows the voice and the presence of the shepherd. 

Right now if you find yourself overcome with fear, doubt and uncertainty maybe you should spend some time today praying and meditating on John 10.  Ask God to reveal the truths contained in this passage that can impact your day and your culture.  And then share those truths with some family and friends around you.

I am not calling for every Christian to board a plane and prepare to surrender their lives by serving the victims of Ebola in Liberia.  I am saying that we need to listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and take heed to what He is saying to us in the midst of the other many voices.  Let’s pay attention to His voice.  Let’s pray attention to His voice.

I am saying that as Christ followers, we are salt in this world.  That means we are a preservative to our culture in the midst of the death and decay.  So yes we should marshal our resources to address the suffering and hopelessness that many are experiencing in third world countries.  We need to prepare to answer that same hopelessness here in our country if and when more American’s contract this disease.

As we finish this short writing, stop the fear and worry; take time to rest beside your good shepherd.  Ask Jesus how He wishes you to be salt in this world.  Then obey the voice of our Good Shepherd.

-Pastor Tony

My Place In America

My Place In America

I have friends that land on all points of the spectrum when it comes to the role of the Christ follower in our society.  I have good, God fearing friends who are convinced that their faith is a deeply personal matter and for us to speak out in the market place and in the town square is inappropriate.  I also have friends that view themselves as modern day crusaders trying to capture more ground, culturally speaking, for the cross. 

Wherever, you stand there are a couple of thoughts I find impossible to refute.  First, no matter our thoughts or our personal comfort in identifying with our faith in a public forum; Christ has called us to be salt and light to this world.  (Matthew 5:13-16)  Say what you want, believe what you will; but I know that salt and light will make a difference, it penetrates the darkness, it cleanses, it adds safety, it adds flavor it preserves.  Whether it is in a public forum or in private relationships, we are called to make a difference.  We are called to impact the world around us. 

Also, I know that there is a group of individuals and organizations that are working hard to whitewash the Christian heritage of our country.  They are educating the next generation into believing that our forefathers were secular agnostics who had little tolerance for issues of faith in society.  Some of these organizations are producing text books and educational tools in which they are ignoring historical writings, speeches and events that lean into God and His word. 

I am not the only person sensing and feeling this tension within our country.  For this reason, the 111th. congress in May of 2009 created a resolution detailing our spiritual heritage as an effort to combat this assault on the Christian faith.  A resolution puts these thoughts into the public domain and into the historical record showing that for a specific time a group of our legislatures undertook a project or endorsed a belief or thought. 

On July 6, we will read part of this resolution.  I encourage you to read and consider the whole resolution, as it gives an exhaustive list of the ways our leaders have leaned into the Christian faith since our founding.  I also encourage you to pray for our country.  I challenge you to vote not according to family tradition nor party lines, but according to you conscience as it relates to the convicting presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

- Pastor Tony

 111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. RES. 397

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `America's Spiritual Heritage Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 4, 2009

Mr. FORBES (for himself, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mr. AKIN, Mr. LATTA, Mr. JORDAN of Ohio, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Ms. FOXX, Mr. GINGREY of Georgia, Mr. JONES, Mr. WOLF, Mr. TURNER, Mr. ADERHOLT, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. HOEKSTRA, Mr. YOUNG of Florida, Mr. WAMP, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr. DAVIS of Tennessee, and Mr. BISHOP of Utah) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

RESOLUTION

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `America's Spiritual Heritage Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.

Whereas religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of the Federal Government from their very beginning;

Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring `This is a religious people . . . From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation';

Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;

Whereas the first act of America's first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible;

Whereas Congress regularly attended church and Divine service together en masse;

Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;

Whereas in 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (`All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'), the Lawgiver (`the laws of nature and nature's God'), the Judge (`appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world'), and the Protector (`with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence');

Whereas upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July `ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty';

Whereas 4 days after approving the Declaration, the Liberty Bell was rung;

Whereas the Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: `Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof';

Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,' announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement' and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union';

Whereas in 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be `a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools' and therefore approved the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that `the United States in Congress assembled . . . recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States';

Whereas in 1782, Congress adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto `Annuit Coeptis,' meaning `God has favored our undertakings,' along with the eye of Providence in a triangle over a pyramid, the eye and the motto `allude to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause';

Whereas the 1783 Treaty of Paris that officially endied the Revolution and established America as an independent begins with the appellation `In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity';

Whereas in 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin declared, `God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? . . . Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel';

Whereas the delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with `the unanimous consent of the States present' but they had done so `in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven';

Whereas James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of `the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution,' and George Washington viewed it as `little short of a miracle,' and Benjamin Franklin believed that its writing had been `influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being';

Whereas, from 1787 to 1788, State conventions to ratify the United States Constitution not only began with prayer but even met in church buildings;

Whereas in 1795, during construction of the Capitol, a practice was instituted whereby `public worship is now regularly administered at the Capitol, every Sunday morning, at 11 o'clock';

Whereas in 1789, the first Federal Congress, the Congress that framed the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, appropriated Federal funds to pay chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions, a practice that has continued to this day, with Congress not only funding its congressional chaplains but also the salaries and operations of more than 4,500 military chaplains;

Whereas in 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching education, declaring that `Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged';

Whereas in 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a National day of prayer and thanksgiving, resulting in the first Federal official Thanksgiving proclamation that declared `it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor';

Whereas in 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard `all ships and vessels in the navy,' with a sermon preached each Sunday;

Whereas in 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine services to be held each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternately administered by the House and Senate chaplains;

Whereas in 1853, Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a `duty . . . to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the House of Representatives';

Whereas by 1867, the church at the Capitol was the largest church in Washington, DC, with up to 2,000 people a week attending Sunday service in the Hall of the House;

Whereas by 1815, over 2,000 official governmental calls to prayer had been issued at both the State and the Federal levels, with thousands more issued since 1815;

Whereas in 1853, the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers `had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people . . . they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy';

Whereas in 1854, the United States House of Representatives declared `It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests . . . Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions';

Whereas in 1864, by law Congress added `In God We Trust' to American coinage;

Whereas in 1864, Congress passed an act authorizing each State to display statues of 2 of its heroes in the United States Capitol, resulting in numerous statues of noted Christian clergymen and leaders at the Capitol, including Gospel ministers such as the Revs. James A. Garfield, John Peter Muhlenberg, Jonathan Trumbull, Roger Williams, Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, and Martin Luther King Jr., Gospel theologians such as Roger Sherman, Catholic priests such as Father Damien, Jacques Marquette, Eusebio Kino, and Junipero Serra, Catholic nuns such as Mother Joseph, and numerous other religious leaders;

Whereas in 1870, the Federal Government made Christmas (a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as `acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries') and Thanksgiving as official holidays;

Whereas, beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal Gvernment printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained;

Whereas in 1931, Congress by law adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as the official National Anthem, with its phrases such as `may the Heav'n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,' and `this be our motto, `In God is our trust!';

Whereas in 1954, Congress by law added the phrase `one nation under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance;

Whereas in 1954, a special Congressional Prayer Room was added to the Capitol with a kneeling bench, an altar, an open Bible, an inspiring stained-glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer, the declaration of Psalm 16:1: `Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust,' and the phrase `This Nation Under God' displayed above the kneeling, prayerful Washington;

Whereas in 1956, Congress by law made `In God We Trust' the National Motto, and added the phrase to American currency;

Whereas the constitutions of each of the 50 States, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God;

Whereas America's first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including--

(1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath;

(2) affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!' to the oath;

(3) inaugural prayers offered by the President;

(4) religious content in the inaugural address;

(5) civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgment of God;

(6) inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and

(7) clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President;

Whereas President George Washington declared `Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports';

Whereas President John Adams, one of only 2 signers of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, declared `As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him';

Whereas President Jefferson not only attended Divine services at the Capitol throughout his presidency and had the Marine Band play at the services, but during his administration church services were also begun in the War Department and the Treasury Department, thus allowing worshippers on any given Sunday the choice to attend church at either the United States Capitol, the War Department, or the Treasury Department if they so desired;

Whereas Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes, and declared that religious schools would receive `the patronage of the government';

Whereas President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible `is the rock on which our Republic rests';

Whereas President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible `is the best gift God has given to men . . . But for it, we could not know right from wrong'

Whereas President William McKinley declared that `Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps';

Whereas President Teddy Roosevelt declared `The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life';

Whereas President Woodrow Wilson declared that `America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture';

Whereas President Herbert Hoover declared that `American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon . . . [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago';

Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the Nation in a 6 minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also declared that `If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction';

Whereas President Harry S. Truman declared that `The fundamental basis of this Nation's law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul';

Whereas President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, DC, that `You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. . . . You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand';

Whereas President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that `Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic, expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God's help, it will continue to be' in a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford;

Whereas President John F. Kennedy declared that `The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God';

Whereas President Ronald Reagan, after noting `The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in shaping the history and character of this Nation and so many of its citizens, has . . . requested the President to designate the year 1983 as the `Year of the Bible', officially declared 1983 as `The Year of the Bible';

Whereas every other President has similarly recognized the role of God and religious faith in the public life ofAmerica;

Whereas all sessions of the United States Supreme Court begin with the Court's Marshal announcing, `God save the United States and this honorable court';

Whereas a regular and integral part of official activities in the Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, was the inclusion of prayer by a minister of the Gospel;

Whereas the United States Supreme Court has declared throughout the course of our Nation's history that the United States is `a Christian country', `a Christian nation', `a Christian people', `a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being', and that `we cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion';

Whereas Justice John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and original Justice of the United States Supreme Court, urged `The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow';

Whereas Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants';

Whereas Justice William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that `Religion and morality . . . [are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws';

Whereas President George Washington, who passed into law the first legal acts organizing the Federal judiciary, asked, `where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths in the courts of justice?';

Whereas some of the most important monuments, buildings, and landmarks in Washington, DC, include religious words, symbols, and imagery;

Whereas in the United States Capitol the declaration `In God We Trust' is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers;

Whereas around the top of the walls in the House Chamber appear images of 23 great lawgivers from across the centuries, but Moses (the lawgiver, who--according to the Bible--originally received the law from God,) is the only lawgiver honored with a full face view, looking down on the proceedings of the House;

Whereas religious artwork is found throughout the United States Capitol, including in the Rotunda where the prayer service of Christopher Columbus, the Baptism of Pocahontas, and the prayer and Bible study of the Pilgrims are all prominently displayed; in the Cox Corridor of the Capitol where the words `America! God shed His grace on thee' are inscribed; at the east Senate entrance with the words `Annuit Coeptis' which is Latin for `God has favored our undertakings'; and in numerous other locations;

Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are found in many Federal buildings across Washington, DC, including in bronze in the floor of the National Archives; in a bronze statue of Moses in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress; in numerous locations at the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the frieze above the Justices, the oak door at the rear of the Chamber, the gable apex, and in dozens of locations on the bronze latticework surrounding the Supreme Court Bar seating;

Whereas in the Washington Monument not only are numerous Bible verses and religious acknowledgments carved on memorial blocks in the walls, including the phrases: `Holiness to the Lord' (Exodus 28:26, 30:30, Isaiah 23:18, Zechariah 14:20), `Search the Scriptures' (John 5:39), `The memory of the just is blessed' (Proverbs 10:7), `May Heaven to this Union continue its beneficence', and `In God We Trust', but the Latin inscription Laus Deo meaning `Praise be to God' is engraved on the monument's capstone;

Whereas of the 5 areas inside the Jefferson Memorial into which Jefferson's words have been carved, 4 are God-centered, including Jefferson's declaration that `God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever';

Whereas the Lincoln Memorial contains numerous acknowledgments of God and citations of Bible verses, including the declarations that `we here highly resolve that . . . this nation under God . . . shall not perish from the earth'; `The Almighty has His own purposes. `Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh' (Matthew 18:7), `as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said `the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether' (Psalms 19:9), `one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it together' (Dr. Martin Luther King's speech, based on Isaiah 40:4-5);

Whereas in the Library of Congress, The Giant Bible of Mainz, and The Gutenberg Bible are on prominent permanent display and etched on the walls are Bible verses, including: `The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not' (John 1:5), `Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding' (Proverbs 4:7), `What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God' (Micah 6:8), and `The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork' (Psalm 19:1);

Whereas numerous other of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues;

Whereas such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the State and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such acknowledgments exist, and

Whereas the first week in May each year would be an appropriate week to designate as `America's Spiritual Heritage Week': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives--

(1) affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day;

(2) recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation's most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America's representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures;

(3) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation's public buildings and educational resources; and

(4) expresses support for designation of a `America's Spiritual Heritage Week' every year for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.

Meet "Winona"

Below, you'll find a story from our friend Shauna Storey, with NightLight International, about a recent victory through their work with women in the sex industry.


Dear Friends,

On April 24, we saw our first NightLight girl come to know Jesus! We'll call her "Winona." Let me share a little story.

We met Winona last fall at a local strip club. We actually met her by accident. A couple of us dropped by this club on a non-outreach night to say hello to the bartender there (who is a believer and ministers to the girls who works there on a regular basis!). As we sat and talked with the bartender, this girl sitting next to us jumped in on the conversation. Turned out she was a dancer there. She was taking classes at a local college. She went to a local church. And she really wanted to hang out.

So one of our team members began to invest in her. They began texting frequently. They started spending time together. We started learning a little more about Winona. She had worked in prostitution and pornography. She has a son that she doesn't have custody of. (Her former pimp does.) Honestly, I rarely heard about the relationship, except the occasional "yeah, we're still hanging out" and "yeah, she sometimes still goes to church" from our team member.

But then in April, we invited Winona to a women's rally at a church in town. We always invite girls we're mentoring to these rallies, but this was the first time any of them came. Winona was one of them, and at the end of the rally, she went forward to surrender her life to Jesus. In fact, our team member was on altar call duty that night and got to be the one to lead her in prayer!

The following Sunday, Winona got baptized. I have to admit…any time something like this happens with someone like Winona, I'm a little cautious. A little skeptical. A little unsure of the sincerity and a little inclined to wait and see if transformation really happens.

Let me tell you…transformation is happening in Winona's life. The week after her baptism, she began searching voraciously for other work. She began reading her Bible like crazy, attending a new believer's class at her church, and just simply going for it. She's even had some conversations with our team member about the steps she might need to take to get her son back.

So here's the deal. God is working in Winona's life. In fact, God was working in her life from the first time we met her. Shoot, He was working in her life from before we met her. And He was working in her life for 6 months after we met her…even when it didn't look like He was working. It didn't look glamorous or sensational, or even all that productive. But our team member was faithful and obedient to God's call on her life to be in relationship with this girl. And wow! What a sweet reward!

So how about you and me? What relationship is God calling us to be faithful to? Intentional toward? Are we feeling unproductive? Are we not seeing any fruit?

Winona's story is a powerful encouragement to me. If we will just continue to be obedient, continue to be faithful, continue to pray and trust the Lord to work…wow! He comes through. We may not see it yet; we may never see it on this side of eternity. But He IS working.

So let's keep pressing in and pressing on. Let's continue investing and leaning in to that hunger for God to work a miracle in someone's life. In many people's lives. Because that's what God does. It's who he is. And it's what He will do.

I'm praising God for that.

--

Shauna Storey
NightLight International

Withdraw

Withdraw-there is something sad about that word. Armies withdraw troops, losing ground to their enemy. Politicians withdraw from a race, experiencing unmet expectations of what could be in their city, state or county. Families withdraw funds to pay for broken cars, homes or bones; making life a bit more insecure with less funds available for other needs.

The word withdraw connotates unmet expectations, unfulfilled dreams, hopes and expectations that are left empty and to some point, simply broken. So when we see this word attached to the Savior of the world, it is extremely sad.

John 6:15 says "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."

What is the context? Jesus had just finished showing His disciples and rag-tag followers that He indeed had the resources to supply the provision for daily sustenance. Jesus fed 5,000 men (this is not including the women and children) with only 5 small barley loaves and two little fish. Through this demonstration of His ability to rely upon God's ability to provide in the middle of the need, the people surrounding Jesus recognized His potential as their long awaited king.

However, this motley mob's agenda for Jesus was different that Jesus' agenda for Himself. Through John's testimony, the people were attempting to seize Jesus and force Him to be a king he never intended on being. They were going to force His kingdom to come through the sword instead of the cross and the agency of the Holy Spirit.

So how did Jesus respond? He withdrew Himself from the people who were trying to coronate Him. Jesus left His followers and went alone to the mountain. It is as if Jesus was pressing reset on His kingdom mission.

Oh Jesus would reengage the disciples. He would continue His teaching for what the kingdom of God could and would look like. But he needed to withdraw and allow everyone to take a breath.

Here is how this event interacts with us. Could we be so focused on our agenda for Jesus, to do something in His name, that we miss out on His agenda? Could our activity get to such a frantic pace that the only choice that Jesus has is to withdraw for a time in our lives, in our families, in our church?

What are the warning signs? How would we know when this has happened? How would our welfare be impacted?

All of these questions are very important and need to be thought through. One fact remains, that despite Jesus withdrawing we know that He still has His eye on us in the storm. After Jesus withdrew, the disciples continued on in life by getting in a boat to go to another part of the lake. They encounter a life-threatening storm that was sure to destroy their boat. In the midst of this storm, Jesus comes to them to show His ability to protect and deal with life's storms.

So even when Jesus withdraws He is but a prayer away, a moment away from showing Himself. This gives us hope. Take hope in this truth, even while wrestling over the signs and reasons for a withdrawing.