Nothing is Working and Everybody Knows It.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2019
I’m writing this in July, but you’re reading it in September.
This is always a disconnect for me. Anything could happen between now and September. I could die (in that case, these are my last words and I expect you to take me more seriously than usual). You could die (in that case, you won’t see this and Key Life can’t expect any more donations from you). Iran or China could launch a missile at New York or Washington (in that case, we might get things straightened out in the country and I should have written something about it). Or I could win the lottery (in that case, I have to buy a ticket and, if I win, I’ll quit this job and this will be my last letter). If that happens, I’ll be in the Bahamas sitting under a palm tree and thinking about all I could do with my newly acquired millions and, I might say, trying to convince God that my gambling wasn’t really a sin given my tithe.
I don’t write to you because I have to do it or because it’s a job. I do it because I like to and, not only that, I like you.
Something else could happen between now and when you read this. There could be an incredible revival/awakening in America. I’m teaching at The Cove (The Billy Graham Training Center in the mountains of NC) in August and the seminar subject is “Revival and Awakening in America.” I’m not sure of everything I’ll teach in that seminar (I haven’t finished it yet), but one thing I plan to say is that I believe Aslan is on the move and we are sitting on top of the greatest awakening we’ve ever seen in America.
You’re kidding, right? Do you have your head in the sand? Have you noticed the culture’s hatred of Christians recently, the moral decay, the racial and ethnic division, the academic dismissal of anything religious (much less Christian), the big and growing list of “nones,” and the unawareness of anything Christian in our heritage? We’re not headed for an awakening…we’re headed for the dark ages.
No, I’m not kidding. Do you know why? It’s because nothing is working and everybody knows it. A lot of people deny that fact and pretend that things are as they always have been. Those are the same people who cheer for their own political/religious/cultural views and try to convince us that if their side wins, then all the bad things will get fixed. But that’s a lie and everybody with any sense knows it.
You’ve heard Augustine’s oft-quoted truth that we are created for God and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. That’s true, but let me tell you something else that’s true. Our restless hearts have to be radically restless and will never find rest in him…until we’ve tried everything else. You see, at the heart of who we are—and it’s our biggest sin—is the desire to be autonomous, to be God.
In an old sermon illustration about how a shepherd deals with a “problem” lamb, it’s said that the shepherd breaks the lamb’s legs and then carries the crippled lamb on his shoulders until the legs are healed. At that point, the lamb will no longer wander far from the shepherd.
There are all kinds of biblical and theological problems with that illustration, but there is truth too. Broken legs need crutches. And most people will hobble along trying to make it without crutches…until it’s so bad there’s simply no other alternative. Once you’ve “fallen and can’t get up” enough, crutches become, not only necessary, but also welcomed.
Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Jesus also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). At one point, in an effort to get to Jesus, sick people almost crushed him (Mark 3:9-10). Matthew wrote that when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). And Mark wrote that when Jesus saw the shepherdless crowds he “began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
In other words, need attracted Jesus. It still does. When it gets dark enough, you can see the light. That’s true both personally and culturally. The operative principle is this: Awareness facilitates provision and remedy. The key is awareness. That’s why I believe we’re looking at a great awakening. Churchill said during the war, “Our problems are beyond us.” That was, of course, true when he said it. Our problems are beyond us too…way beyond us. And the awareness of that fact has only increased.
As the awareness of our helplessness—in fixing us or anything else—increases, there’s a proportional increase in sensitivity to those who promise to change things, to a fixer who will make everything better. Charlatans are everywhere. The difference between the past and now is that we’ve all “been there and done that” and our cynicism is becoming far greater than our hope. That’s bad.
No, that’s good.
In a recent edition of World Magazine (August 18, 2018), Sophia Lee wrote an article, “Digital Sages,” about how some speakers/teachers with a conservative and traditional message (Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and Dennis Prager) were speaking and connecting with hundreds of thousands of young people. She wrote, “Neither Peterson, Prager nor Shapiro are hawking new truths. Nothing they say is smack-in-head revelation. Instead, they seek to help people understand what they already know deep within their souls—timeless, elementary, common grace truths and values that are embedded into our very being, nature and substrata of consciousness. Their message won’t save a single soul, but they appeal to people because of the law of God written on the listeners’ hearts.”
That’s it! With the suicide rate at historical highs; the political climate beyond hostile; the addictions that kill us; the present moral code of meaninglessness, confusion and death; the solutions that have been tried time and time again (counseling, education, government programs, etc.) without helping; and the profound and undefined fear that haunts us, only a fruitcake with the brains of a peanut or a dreamer who lives in incredible denial thinks that our problems aren’t beyond us. Smiling faces on Facebook won’t erase it…and we know it.
That’s why we’re sitting on top of a great awakening.
Besides the awareness, there’s another thing creating hope that God is ready to do something big. Down deep there’s a stirring as described by Michael Kelly Blanchard in his wonderful song, “Be Ye Glad”:
In these days of confused situations,
In these nights of restless remorse,
When the heart and the soul of the nation,
lay wounded and cold as a corpse.
From the grave of the innocent Adam,
comes a song bringing joy to the sad.
Oh your cry has been heard and the ransom,
has been paid up in full, Be Ye Glad.
Speaking of music, do you know the most recorded song in history? It’s “Amazing Grace” sung and recorded by almost every secular and Christian artist, and performed in concert halls and churches around the world. That song, believe it or not, brings atheists and believers to tears, Democrats and Republicans to silence, and sinners and saints to a deep longing. Do you know why? It’s because it reflects the profound and universal need of people who have run out of solutions.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Our problem is that we keep adding verses and changing lyrics. The world’s problem is that they are just beginning to realize how dark it really is.
When both of us change our ways, there will be an awakening!
He told me to tell you so you wouldn’t get discouraged.