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A church service I’ll never forget

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Reverend A. R. Bernard on stage speaking at the All Faces All Races Immigration Forum held at the Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn, New York, January 23, 2014 (Credit: Christian Cultural Center via Facebook)

Dr. A. R. Bernard was born in Panama and moved to Brooklyn with his mother when he was four.  He was bussed to school in Queens, then worked during high school pushing clothing racks for $2.00 an hour.  As a high school senior, he became a bank clerk and worked his way to Operations Specialist in the bank’s Consumer Lending Division.

For five years, he identified with the Muslim American movement.  In January 1975, a secretary at his bank so impressed him with her faith that he attended a worship service.  During the meeting, he heard God say to him: “I am the God you are looking for.  I and my Word are one.”  He made Christ his Lord, and started a Bible study three years later with his wife in their apartment.

This Bible study quickly became a church with four Sunday services.  Lines formed at 4 A.M. and overflow rooms filled to capacity.  In 2000, the Christian Cultural Center moved into its 6.5-acre campus.  Its membership today exceeds 37,000, making it the largest church in New York City.

Dr. Bernard is one of the most visionary and effective leaders I know.  It was my privilege to meet him recently and worship with his congregation.  He is a man of amazing discipline—beginning his workdays at 4 A.M., continuing a regimen of martial arts he has practiced for 28 years, and leading the international ministries of his congregation.

What most impresses me about his vision is its holistic integrity.  Dr. Bernard is convinced that God wants us to serve his purposes in every condition, work, and relationship of life.  In the sermon I heard, Dr. Bernard quoted God’s promise to “pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” not just Christians (Acts 2:17, citing Joel 2:28).  He noted that God used non-Israelites throughout the Old Testament and that he is Master over all.  He claimed that “there is not one renegade molecule in the universe that escapes his sovereignty.”

As a result, God’s Spirit is working throughout the world today.  Our job is to submit to him and join him.  Every dimension of our lives is to be yielded to his control and use.  As I heard Dr. Bernard, I dreamed of the transformation in our nation if every Christian obeyed his call to Kingdom living.

As we celebrate our nation’s independence today, I am convinced that America’s greatest need today is for a great moral and spiritual awakening.  This movement begins with God’s people as we repent of our self-sufficiency and surrender fully to the Spirit.  That’s why our ministry is joining Anne Graham Lotz for “777 An Urgent Call to Prayer.”  From July 1 to 7, we are taking time each day for repentance and intercession for our nation.  I urge you to read Anne’s prayer for today and make it your own.

Today we’ll celebrate America’s founding with parades, fireworks, and barbeques.  Will we pray for her future?

Note: Anne is writing prayers for July 5 and 6 as well. To read them, go here.