We are in a battle for the moral soul of America, and it’s a battle to destroy the very foundation on which we were built. You cannot build on a cracked foundation, and what is already standing will inevitably fall apart. We see effort after effort to take away our Judeo-Christian beliefs: no more Ten Commandments, no more public displays of anything Christ-like.
In 1956, a small lighted display case was erected on the courthouse lawn in downtown Houston to honor industrialist William Mosher for his contributions to the Star of Hope Mission, which has served thousands of homeless, desperate, and destitute individuals and families in the city throughout the years. The display includes a Bible, honoring the faith in Christ that compelled him to do the work of the ministry. A judge recently ruled that the Bible must be removed from the display after a citizen complained that a Bible displayed on public property is unconstitutional.
Statistics indicate that the majority of Americans are favorable to public displays of the Ten Commandments, nativity scenes, and so on. It seems to me there is a minority who are creating reverse discrimination by using the letter of the law to coerce the majority to cower to the beliefs of the few, when the spirit of the law was to bring liberty, equality, and freedom of speech to all. These are the very things that made us a great nation where all peoples could dwell in safety, because Jesus Himself was raised up as the Shadow of The Almighty over our land. All religions and all faiths and all peoples knew they could come to this land of liberty, a place of hope, and flourish here. But now, the very ones who have benefited from our foundation of freedom seek to remove the very thing that gives them that liberty.
AMERICA IS IN TROUBLE
My dear friend, Curt Williams of Youth-Reach Houston, was in the Gulf Coast area immediately after Hurricane Ivan hit and saw firsthand the destruction and devastation left in Ivan’s path-not only shattered dwellings, but also broken lives and broken dreams. Just as houses built on the sands of our beaches could not withstand Ivan, neither will we withstand the shaking that is coming-the whirlwinds of life, the tornadoes of life, the hurricanes of life, and the storms of lifewhen our very lives sit on a cracked, unstable foundation.
That is where America is today. We are like a house built on the sand, with a cracked foundation and very faulty. And though it may appear to the outside world and even to ourselves that our shell is intact, when the storms come-be it economic storms, spiritual storms, or natural disasters-that shell is going to crumble.
In early 2004, I was at a meeting in Dallas with 50-60 key leaders from around the country, including former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes, Judge Roy Moore from Alabama, Joyce and David Meyers, Rick Scarborough from Vision America, and James Robison, along with Houston pastors Steve Riggle and Bob Philips. Though we all came from different perspectives and paradigms and streams of faith, we met because of our common consensus that America is in trouble.
During the meeting, Alan Keyes made this thought-provoking observation regarding our cracked foundation: “Our rights to revere God have been stolen from us, the American people. Those who steal our rights to the sovereignty of God in our lives have total power over us.” As I pondered how this happened, I, too, made some observations on the problem, the reason for the problem, and the actions needed for change.
The problem: Certain people have broken the commandments of God and want to re-write their own human laws to justify their desire for personal license, with no restraints. The only thing keeping them from the power to do this is our God-given right to worship Him as our Sovereign. The reason for the problem: Like the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:4, we have left our first love. The actions needed for change: We must get back to our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and let Him be Lord of the land again and Lord of our lives.
AN ISSUE OF THE HEART
A few years ago, while attending the Congressional Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., I was honored and humbled to participate in the taping of two television specials on “The Soul of America” with the late Dr. Bill Bright, Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, and Max Lucado. As we spoke, I realized you cannot change the soul of a person, a family, a community, or a nation if the heart is sick. In America, the heart of our nation is the Church.
When King Josiah recognizes in 2 Kings 22 that everything is out of order, he reinstates the Law for people to follow, which is a good thing-it is the right thing to do. But Jeremiah makes the inference that although it is good, it will not bring lasting change unless the heart changes.
This is true in America today. We have shells and institutions and foundation that are cracked. But we cannot make lasting change unless we, the Church, first deal with our root issues of the heart. Changing laws cannot change hearts, but once hearts are changed, the laws will naturally and progressively change.
When a person has a heart attack or for some other reason the heart stops beating, emergency workers will first use hands-on massage to manually “jump-start” the heart. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to use a defibulator, which sends an electronic jolt to the heart in an effort to revive it so it can beat freely once again.
Because of the cracks in our foundation, we-like a weakened heart-are on the verge of collapse. God has been giving us a wake-up call, but we have been pushing our snooze buttons. He has been trying to massage our hearts back to being pliable in His hands and into having life again.
The book of Hebrews tells us there are six hindrances to personal and corporate transformation and revival:
1. Negligence (2:1-3)
2. Hardening of the heart (3:7-10)
3. Unbelief (3:11-12)
4. Dullness of hearing (5:11-14)
5. Resisting God (10:26-29)
6. Refusing Him when He speaks (12:25-27)
If we don’t heed these warnings, if we harden our hearts or ignore His voice, everything that needs to be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:25-29). The only thing left standing will be that which is built on the foundation of Christ (I Corinthians 3:11). Like the Shulamite in Song of Songs, we must be lovesick once again for God.
My friend Jackson Senyonga from Uganda, has said, “Revival comes by desperation, and desperation comes one of two ways: passion or persecution.” I pray that it would not take the distancing of God’s presence or an increase of persecution in our land for us to have a genuine passion for God, to long for Him once again.
In our gathering in Dallas, we realized there are three primary things in Scripture that are so disheartening to God that they cause Him to be ill, and they ultimately cause His presence to depart from His people:
1. Ritual or temple prostitution
2. The shedding of innocent blood on the altar
3. Licentiousness or moral looseness to the degree that it is “in your face,” including homosexuality
All three of these are prominently visible and prevalent in America today. Even with all the spin in the media regarding our upcoming election, the bottom line is this: our upcoming election is crucial because the issues all come back to these three points.
If there is temple prostitution, we have to ask ourselves if ourinstitutional Christianity has become so cosmetic and “highgloss/cheap merchandise” because we have prostituted ourselves by choosing to live by preference rather than by conviction.
In July, I was co-facilitating a gathering at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina the day the U.S. Senate did not pass the Marriage and Family Act Amendment. I was contacted by a Houston radio station that wanted to get my views on a live interview that evening. During the program, they asked me this question: “When the majority of our U.S. Senate say they go to church and claim to be Christians, how can their voting be so blatantly at the opposite end on the spectrum of beliefs?”
After pondering for a moment, I answered, “That’s the difference between serving an institutional Christianity and pursuing an impartational relationship with the living Christ.” Dr. Richard Halverson, the former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, has said, “Christianity began in the land of Palestine with the person of Jesus. It went to Greece and became a philosophy, went to Rome and became an institution, went to Western Europe and became a culture. Then it came to America and became an enterprise.” Dr. Michael Brown echoes this sentiment in his book The American Gospel Enterprise. Truly today, we have capitalized even in the church on things that will benefit us and make us feel warm and fuzzy. We serve the institution rather than God Himself.
We live in a sound-bite society, content to stay at the surface, not hungry enough to dig for the hidden treasures and truths in God’s Word. We have digressed, even in our churches to organization instead of relationship, to marketing God instead of presenting God, to institution instead of impartation. And because we have shattered our own foundation, we are now allowing others to take away from us the very thing that caused us to stand strong.
A genuine passion for God allows no room for mediocrity. We are to be a people of conviction, a people of character, rather than a people who live by preference for comfort and ease.
THE SHEDDING OF INNOCENT BLOOD
In the last 30 years, nearly 45 million unborn children in America alone have been sacrificed on the altar because we needed our comfort and ease. We justify our reasoning to the point that we even argue over issues like late-term abortions: Is it a child or is it a fetus? Is it a piece of tissue or is it alive? Is it still okay to terminate that child inside the womb in the ninth month, at the very moment of birth, because it hasn’t actually come out of the womb?
This proves my point that we are a people who look to be justified by excuse rather than a people justified by faith. Our faith has not been in God because we have no fear of God. Our faith has become a faith in man and in our own needs and desires. And it’s not just our unborn who have suffered, which is an atrocity in itself, but we also have abdicated our place of influence and our responsibility to the children we have brought to birth. We would rather feel comfortable than to deal with issues of conviction and character. We allow our children to live in a course of their own.
I wrote the book, The Fatherless Generation, years ago as a “state of the nation” address, but it is more appropriate now than it was then. Like never before, we see a fatherless generation of spiritual orphans in search of identity. They are like a generation in the desert, scattered, looking for a place of belonging and for a land to possess.
Prior to the last Presidential election, I was invited as one of our city leaders to do an invocation at probably the largest state gathering of any political party for a national election, with over 17,000 people in attendance. The Lord put it on my heart to present the need for a revival of character, from the pulpits to the White House. I stated how a great leader named Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Then I quoted the great king Hezekiah, who once said, in a day of trouble and distress, “The children are ready to come forth but there is no strength to bring them forth.”
We live today in the same kind of predicament. We have a whole generation of young people either sacrificed before they are born or being brought to birth yet left with no vision of hope or purpose. We need to give a vision of hope again, a vision of purpose, a vision of destination. We cannot do this through our institutional Christianity, through our shallow platitudes, or through business as usual. We can only do this by returning to Jesus as our first love and being lovesick for His presence.
Our human wisdom and our manmade efforts have failed us. As Scripture tells us, “Unless the LORD builds a house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) We can try in the natural, but we first need to be a people on our knees, passionately and desperately crying out to God in intercession, getting the commission of God, and rising up to do what He tells us to do.
When we are the tangible expression of Christ to those around us who are looking for hope and for purpose, they will see the light and love of Jesus Christ in us shining so brightly it will draw them to Him.
LICENTIOUSNESS AND MORAL LOOSENESS
Let me first say that I am a person who believes in tangible expressions of Christ through grace and compassion. Our ministry began years ago on the streets of Houston as we reached out in love to the homeless, the prostitutes, the addicts, and the homosexuals. But if you truly love someone, you love them enough to deal with issues of the heart-whether they are addicted to drugs or other things that are unhealthy for them-instead of band-aiding the problem, covering it up, or ignoring it.
Jesus Christ is our Savior, Healer, Deliverer, and Liberator. There is nothing too difficult for Him if He truly is on the thrones of our hearts and truly back on the thrones of our pulpits of America. Galatians 5:1 says: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty where with Christ has set us free and be no longer entangled in yokes of bondage.” We look to the Statue of Liberty, which stands in the gateway to our land. But how then can we stand with our hands over our hearts in Pledge of Allegiance and say, “with liberty and justice for all” after we have removed the Name of God from our pledge?
The only One who is pure of heart, pure of purpose, who is liberator and justice giver, is Jesus Christ. When we take Him out of the equation, there is no liberty. There is no salvation, no deliverance, and no healing under heaven and earth without the name of Jesus. To take the spiritual and moral values away from a people is to leave them with nothing but the journey to anarchy.
TO LIVE IS CHRIST
Scripture is clear, brothers and sisters. Even our early Apostlesunder persecution, punishment, brutality, beating, and imprisonmentwouldnever dumb down their convictions and love because they did not serve an institution, they served a living King. Because of that, they were able to say even as Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
When I was ministering in Fiji recently, I learned of the arrest of a dear friend in Viet Nam, the pastor of a large underground church. He has since been released to house arrest, but still needs our prayers. On January 2, 1990, he and over 120 underground church leaders were crying out to God on behalf of their nation. Through a supernatural set of circumstances, I was able to meet them. When they asked me to minister to them, I was so overwhelmed by their humility and their faith that all I could think to do was to spend the next few hours washing their feet.
Just a few weeks ago, this pastor’s wife came to the U.S. to visit their two daughters, who are now in Bible college in Dallas. Desiring to be with his wife and children, yet knowing there would be a warrant for his arrest when he returned, he walked across the borders of Viet Nam and through the jungles of Cambodia to catch a plane to the U.S. from Thailand.
When he and his wife came to our office to visit, I looked at him and said, “You’re here with your family now, there’s no need to go back. Have you considered staying?” He answered me: “You know, I have considered that. But if I do not go back, the church will be discouraged. But if I do go back, even when I’m arrested, the church will grow.” I looked at him with tears and realized what a true champion is: one who, like my friend, realizes in the light of eternity that something is far bigger than the moment. “You remind me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” I said to my friend.
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister who could have stayed in the U.S. or in England during World War II, preaching in safety against the atrocities of Nazi Germany. But like Moses, rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of this life, he chose to suffer with his people, trying to make a difference. Before he was martyred he said these words: “When Christ calls a man to Himself, He bids him to die.”
INVITED GUEST OR INHABITANT?
Immediately after the tragedy of 9/11, I was contacted by national media who asked me if I thought this was a judgment of God. Along with Anne Graham Lotz, I stated:
“WE ASKED GOD NOT TO BE IN OUR SCHOOLS, NOT TO BE IN OUR PUBLIC VENUES, NOT TO BE THE LORD OF OUR LIVES ANY MORE EXCEPT IN IMAGE. YET WE WANT TO BLAME GOD WHEN THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN?
“IT REALLY DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY â€˜JUDGMENT’ OF GOD. IF YOU’RE SAYING GOD’S NOT PRESENT SO JUDGMENT COMES, THEN THE ANSWER IS YES. BUT THE BIBLE SAYS SIN PRODUCES DEATH. IT WAS OUR CHOICE TO ASK GOD NOT TO BE IN OUR EVERY DAY LIVES AND NOT TO BE PRESENT IN OUR LAND. THIS IS NOT AN ACT OF JUDGMENT, IT’S A WAKE-UP CALL. GOD IS LONGING TO BE IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE AGAIN.”
When I asked my friend David Ravenhill to address a gathering of pastors in Houston, he challenged us with this question: “Are you asking God to come as invited guest or as an inhabitant?”
I have many close friends who will invite me into their houses and tell me to make myself at home. While there, I know I can help myself to the kitchen, get up or go to bed when I want to, borrow a book from a bookshelf. But what would my friends think if I began painting the walls, changing out the furniture, or redecorating the living room to fit my own tastes?
This is, sadly, what we do with God. We want Him around, but only as our invited guest rather than One who has the right to create an atmosphere or an environment in which He wants to dwell.
My spiritual grandfather, Leonard Ravenhill, used to say, “Is the life you’re living worth Christ dying for?” We cannot live the kind of life worth the price our Savior paid unless we allow God in, not as a guest but as an inhabitant. We must open our hearts, our churches, and our public venues as dwelling places and allow Him to conform them to fit His preferences instead of our own. That is the difference between institutional Christianity and impartational relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.
A MATTER OF FAMILY
The biggest challenges ahead are a reflection of this battle against the soul of our nation, a battle to tear down the family. It’s not only an issue of the biological family, but also a matter of our spiritual family, and it’s a battle we fight first and foremost on our knees. It’s a battle we fight by drawing closer in intimacy to the One who gives us liberty and life.
We cannot take lightly our responsibilities. My spiritual father Ed Cole used to say, “You cannot compensate through sacrifice what you lose through disobedience.”
Our very futures hang in the balance, as do the futures of our families and of the nations. Those who live outside our borders will tell us that if the church in America ever falls, so will the lives and liberties of those who dwell in other nations across the globe. As for me and my household, I choose to say, like Joshua, that we will serve the Lord. What about you?
Doug Stringer is the founder and president of Turning Point Ministries International and Somebody Cares America, faith ministries that rely entirely on the freewill gifts of our financial and prayer supporters. Visit somebodycares.org, or dougstringer.com for more information or to sign up for news, articles, and announcements by email. Or write to TPMI, PO Box 570007, Houston TX 77257.