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October 12, 2002
Column #1102

National Solemn Assembly

     WASHINGTON Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, one of America's major evangelistic institutions, is dying at age 80. He is so short of breath that he wears an oxygen clip. Yet he stood in front of his wheelchair and preached with the power of an Old Testament prophet for an hour at a National Solemn Assembly at Constitutional Hall this week.

     ''We in America are slipping morally and spiritually and even materially,'' said the patriarch. A fellow passenger in a plane asked him why. Bright pulled out a Bible and asked him to read Deuteronomy Chapters 8 and 28. 

     Moses warned the people Israel to ''Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.'' If you follow evil ways, ''you will surely perish.''

     Chapter 28 predicts that ''If you fully obey the Lord, and follow his commands, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.'' But if you do not obey the Lord your God...curses will come upon you and overtake you. The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.''

     Bright recalled that America was founded with a Christian vision. ''George Washington, after whom this city is named, wrote a prayer, `Oh Lord, let the world be filled with the knowledge of thee and thy son, Jesus Christ.'' Even Jefferson wrote, ''God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?''

     The National Solemn Assembly was conceived by Dr. Robert Fisher, Director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal in Cleveland, TN, before 9/ll/01 and before a war with Iraq was contemplated. He said ''The purpose was to come intentionally into compliance with Joel Chapter 2, which called Israel into ''solemn assembly'' to come ''humbly and submissively to God.''

     Why? ''We have wandered from our original roots, our Judeo-Christian ethic, into disobeying God. The materialistic bent we are on, putting our trust in wealth or in military might. God sent us a wake up call in the plunge of the stock market and the corporate scandals. People feel more vulnerable now, which is good. We need to understand what our true resources are, the morality of this nation, and its people.''

     Members of Congress left the debate on the war to address the Solemn Assembly, such as Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a recent Catholic convert, who confessed he was ''touched by Bill Bright saying his greatest enemy is the old Bill Bright. My enemy is the old Sam Brownback.'' He prayed, ''We have a challenge in this nation. We have been so incredibly blessed in this land. We are humbled by this blessing. But to whom much is given, much is expected.'' 

     At one point Wednesday, the name of every Member of Congress, every Cabinet Member and Supreme Court Justice, scrolled by on a screen as they were prayed for by 1,500 attendees.

     None of the speakers were announced in advance, and none were even introduced, so that the emphasis ''was totally on one star, the morning star, Jesus Christ,'' said Fisher.

     Late Tuesday night, a Navy Admiral dressed in his gold braid began speaking. As he did so, his name flashed on the screen, Barry Black. He did not sound like any admiral I've heard.

     ''America is in trouble,'' he said in a rich baritone voice. ''It is a sick patient. I am almost afraid to channel surf on cable TV, afraid of what I might see. Obscenities dominate our television. Barriers of decency have been swept away.'' 

     ''When I was growing up, you had to work at getting into trouble. Now it comes into our homes, through the internet and TV. You don't have to leave home to find the devil. America is addicted to sin. America must end its addiction to sin. Proverbs 14:34 says, ''Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.''

     ''No nation is so blessed that sin will not bring you down.'' 

     He recalled growing up in Baltimore, carrying a gun. He came home one night and found his mother on her knees praying that ''God would save her wayward son.'' He thought, ''How foolish is this woman, thinking her prayers could reach me.''

     ''I was addicted to sin...I am here because someone prayed for me.''

     Today he is the Chief of Naval Chaplains.

     Every city needs to hold its own Solemn Assembly.

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