Is God In Charge? Sovereignty and Freedom

Is God in charge?

Sovereignty and freedom

By Dr. Jim Denison

As I write this essay, we are in the midst of an economic crisis which many experts consider to be the most serious since the Great Depression. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the latter characterized as a “downward spiral” in last week’s National Intelligence Estimate report.

The geopolitical situation continues to degenerate, with Russian ascendancy in Eastern Europe, Iranian pursuit of nuclear capability, Syria’s decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and the ongoing Palestinian problem.

Do you sometimes wonder if God is in charge of this fallen world? Does everything happen according to his intention? If not, how can he be the sovereign Lord? If so, do humans have free will?

Am I free to write this sentence, or are my fingers essentially an extension of God? Are you free to read this essay, or was your “decision” to do so actually predetermined by the Lord?

Such questions push us into the muddy waters of sovereignty and freedom, Calvinism and Armenianism. Did God purpose the crises of these days? If he did, what kind of God is he? Are humans free? If he did not, how can he be Lord?

Let’s wade through this theological swamp, and see if we can find firm ground upon which to stand. The next time you face crisis or suffering, you’ll need that place for your soul.

Everything is determined by God

John Calvin (1509-64) was a lawyer before he became a Christian (not to say that lawyers can’t be Christians—that’s just the order it happened for him). And so he brought an insistence on logic and consistency to his new faith. His Institutes of the Christian Religion are still fundamental to the movement known as Reform theology, promoted especially in America by Presbyterian churches.

“Five points” as later detailed by the Synod of Dort (1618-19) are typically seen to summarize Calvinist theology:

Total depravity: the fall of Adam and Eve affected every part of us, our minds and our wills

Unconditional divine election: we can do nothing to earn our salvation

Limited atonement: Christ died only for those “elected” or chosen by God for salvation

Irresistible grace: the “elect” will always accept the grace of God

Perseverance of the saints: those who receive salvation can never lose it

As you can see, the five points begin with letters which make a “tulip.” A “five-point” or “tulip” Calvinist is a person who accepts each of these assertions. Some theologians opt for four or less. Those who believe in all five points maintain that God’s will cannot be defeated if he is God. In other words, if he wants one of his creatures to be in heaven, that person will be in heaven. They add that if God is sovereign over the future, he must know what choice we are going to make regarding salvation in Christ.

Most people hear this theological position and immediately respond that it’s not fair for God to choose some people to go to heaven and the rest to go to hell. Calvinists reply that if God were fair, no one could be in heaven, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In other words, none of us deserve to go to heaven; all salvation is by God’s grace.

The critic then answers that while none of us deserve heaven, it is unfair for any to be chosen unless all are chosen. None of us deserve a vaccine for bird flu, but if one is developed it would be unfair for only some to receive it. And the debate continues.

Our choices are our own

Joseph Arminius (1560-1609) believed that God made us to worship him, but noted that worship requires a choice. If someone drags you to a church service against your will, it’s unlikely that your worship will be joyous. God wants us to use this freedom to choose to love and worship him. But those who make that wise choice retain their freedom. And so they can later choose against him. They can be “saved” and later “lose their salvation.” You can choose to be married and later choose not to be, or choose to read this book and later change your mind.

This approach accepts “unconditional divine election,” the idea that we don’t deserve for God to forgive our sins and give us salvation. But as you can see, it doesn’t accept much else in the tulip. John Wesley and his followers were greatly influenced by Arminius’s position, and helped popularize it through the Methodist movement.

Getting to the heart of the problem

Since I began struggling with this issue back in college, a middle way has made the most sense to me. Walk with me through the “tulip” again. T = total depravity, the idea that sin affects every part of our lives so that we are incapable of meeting God’s perfect standards or earning a place in his perfect heaven. The Bible seems to teach clearly that all of us have in fact sinned, and that this sin affects every part of our lives. Paul spoke for me, and I would guess for you as well:

“I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24).

I can think of no part of my life which is untouched by sin. My body is decaying by the day. My mind and emotions can run in all sorts of ungodly ways. So I’m forced to be a T Calvinist.

U = unconditional divine election, the idea that salvation is God’s gift of grace, not earned or deserved by sinful humans. I know that I did nothing to earn my relationship with God except ask for it. When I became a Christian at the age of 15, I had been going to church only for a few weeks, didn’t even own a Bible, and had not yet given a dollar to the offering. I had made no changes in my life to line up with expected morality.

Paul seemed to believe that we’re all like I was, no matter how many church services we attended before trusting in Jesus: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). So I’m a U Calvinist as well.

But now we run into trouble. L = limited atonement, the idea that Jesus died only for those who would trust him as their Savior and Lord. I understand Calvinist logic: God knew who would trust in his Son, and would not “waste” his death on those who would not accept his love. If I invite our entire staff to our home for Sunday lunch but know only six can come, my wife will not set out food for the rest.

But where does the Bible require this logic regarding Jesus’ atonement? Jesus suffered the same death, whether it was for eleven original disciples or two billion Christians today. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son . . .” (John 3:16). I’m not sure limited atonement is wrong so much as I wonder if it’s irrelevant.

I = irresistible grace, the idea that those chosen by God for salvation will in fact accept his gift. This is the heart of the issue, so we’ll get back to it in a moment.

I am quite willing to be a P Calvinist, accepting the “perseverance of the saints” without question. Once I was “born again” as the child of God, it is impossible for me to go back to my condition before that event. My sons will always be my sons, whether they like it or not. Whether they feel like it or act like it or not. Once they were born as my sons, they are forever stuck in that condition.

The Arminian believes that I still possess the freedom to choose to reject Jesus, but I disagree. I no longer possess the freedom to be unborn, or to choose different parents, or to be African American rather than Anglo American. Some choices are simply not available to me. The choice to rewind the tape and return to my pre-conversion state is among them.

So my problem is with I Calvinism. Is God’s grace irresistible? I thought I made a free choice on September 9, 1973 when I asked Christ to be my Savior and Lord. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I would have accepted his grace eventually, even if not on that day. I cannot know for certain in practical experience—I cannot reverse time and refuse salvation on that day in 1973 to see what happens next.

The issue is somewhat irrelevant regarding my salvation, since that is a settled matter. But it is much more relevant to the decisions I make in the next minute and hour. It is a crucial question when asked of other events of life such as 9-11 and the Holocaust. I don’t mind being part of God’s “elect,” chosen to accept his irresistible offer of salvation. But I very much mind being the son of a man whose early death was equally determined by God. And living in a world plagued by hurricanes and diseases which that God causes.

So we’ve diagnosed the heart of the problem: do the events of our lives just “happen,” or are each of them caused by God? Are our choices free, or not? The answers will say much about the God who wants us to trust him unconditionally.

The Bible agrees with both sides

Compounding the problem, there are passages in God’s word which seem to support each side of the debate. That’s why the argument has gone on for centuries, and this essay is unlikely to end the discussion.

Consider one of the passages cited immediately by Calvinists: “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9.18). Paul was referring to Pharaoh’s “hardened heart” during the Jewish enslavement in Egypt. Exodus quotes God as saying, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you” (Exodus 7:3-4). The Bible repeats the assertion: “Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country” (Exodus 11:10).

These statements would seem to end the debate: God clearly “hardens” the hearts of people he does not want to accept his word and will, in this case so he could use the Exodus to liberate his people and show them his power and glory. He chooses some to accept his love and others to reject it. But the issue isn’t so simple.

The same book of Exodus also records that after the plague of frogs ended, “when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 8:15). Later came the plague of flies, after which “Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go” (Exodus 8:32). So, did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, or was he responsible for his own sin? Both positions seem to be taught by the text.

Again quoting Exodus, Paul reminds us that God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). He asks, “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (v. 21).

He seemed even clearer when he told the Ephesians: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

At the same time, Paul assured Timothy that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Peter agreed: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

So which is it? Does God choose only some to be saved, or does he want everyone to be in heaven with him? The biblical answer seems to be “yes.”

We are dealing with an apparent contradiction, what logicians call an “antinomy.” If two statements are both true, we must accept them both even if they appear to contradict each other. It’s actually hard to find a fundamental biblical doctrine which doesn’t qualify. Is God three or one? Was Jesus fully divine or fully human? Is the Bible divinely inspired or humanly written?

It’s possible to ask a question for which there is no answer, committing what philosophers call a “category mistake.” How much does the color red weigh? What color is the number seven? Can God make a rock so big he can’t move it, or two mountains without a valley in the middle, or a square circle? When my brother and I were young children, we would ask our mother which of us she loved the most. She was wise enough to change the subject.

There is a way to resolve the dilemma somewhat. The passages which seem to support Calvinistic irresistible grace at least indicate that God knows what we are going to choose before we choose it. He knew how the clay would turn out, and which of the Ephesians would accept his Son. But knowing is not the same thing as determining. My wife knows that every time we go to an ice cream parlor I’ll get strawberry. She thinks it’s a boring way to live, while I see it as one less problem to solve. The fact that she knows my choice doesn’t mean she makes it.

I know the analogy breaks down—next time I might order cherry just to confuse her. But it doesn’t break down with God. He created time and transcends it. Remember, if time is a line on a page, God is the page. He’s not “looking into” tomorrow so much as he’s already there. You and I are caught in the space-time continuum, but he’s not. He sees tomorrow better than I can see today.

But that doesn’t mean that he’s already chosen what I’ll do when it arrives. I can watch you read these words, but that doesn’t mean I made you read them. Seeing and choosing are not the same. God can see the sermon I’ll preach next Easter, but I still have to write it, unfortunately.

But we still haven’t solved my problem. If God’s omniscience means that he saw the current economic crisis before it happened, that’s one thing. If his sovereignty means that he caused it, since nothing can happen outside his will, that’s something else entirely.

God is so sovereign he can choose not to be

Here’s how I understand the relationship of God’s sovereignty to my freedom: the Lord has chosen to give me free will so that I can choose to worship him. But he knows that freedom isn’t free if it’s determined. So he has chosen to honor the free will he gave me, to limit himself by my freedom.

This decision is in no sense a depreciation of his sovereignty, since he made it himself. My authority as the pastor of our church is not lessened by my decision not to exercise it over every decision we make. If our deacons told me I could not choose the hymns we’ll sing next Sunday, that would be one thing. If I decide of my own volition to allow our worship pastor to make that decision, that’s something else.

God wants us all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and salvation (1 Timothy 2:4), but not all choose to accept his love. He chooses to honor the free will he has given us, so that we can make this decision in complete freedom. So far, so good.

But what about events which occur without human choice? Hurricanes and earthquakes are obviously not chosen by those they victimize. We can say that natural disasters are the result of Adam’s sin, and we’d be right (Romans 8:22). But they are not the result of your sin and mine. Has God also limited himself regarding the consequences of Adam’s free choice to sin? In other words, has he decided to honor Adam’s freedom by allowing the natural disasters and diseases which it still causes?

If so, why does he sometimes intervene when they occur? He clearly manipulated nature at the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and his Son’s resurrection from the dead. Jesus healed blind eyes and diseased bodies. According to James, he still does (James 5:13-16).

So it doesn’t seem to me that God’s decision to honor our freedom explains why he allows disasters and diseases which are not its consequence. I understand that God allows evil and suffering which results from misused freedom. And I can accept the premise that he permits nothing he will not use for his glory and our good. But does he cause these bad things to happen? He certainly caused the Flood to devastate the human population, and the Red Sea to collapse on the Egyptian armies. He causes the plagues and destruction recorded in the book of Revelation. Does he cause all that goes wrong in nature?

Does God cause all natural suffering?

I still haven’t answered my question: did God cause the current world problems, or merely permit them? Most of us have done nothing to cause them—we didn’t pass laws to deregulate the banking industry, or issue bad loans, or invade South Ossetia. We didn’t cause Hurricane Ike to devastate Galveston. None of this is our fault. So, is it God’s? You have experienced enough undeserved suffering to ask the question as well.

Here I am helped by the pattern of Scripture on the issue. Whenever God causes natural calamity or personal disease in the Bible, he always explains why. He brought about the Flood because of the rampant sinfulness of humanity, and gave Noah a century to warn the people before the rains came. He initiated the plagues of the Exodus in response to Pharaoh’s sin and to show his people their God’s miraculous power over the mightiest nation on earth.

He sent Joshua to destroy the Canaanites not only to give his people a land but also in response to the wicked sins of those who inhabited it (cf. Genesis 15:16). He raised up oppressors to persecute his people when their sins demanded such justice (cf. Judges 2:10-15). He brought about the demise of the houses of Eli and Saul because of their sins against him (1 Samuel 2:30-36; 13:13-14). Each time, they were warned before judgment fell.

His people were captured by Assyria and Babylon, but not before his prophets had predicted such doom if they did not repent. Because King Herod “did not give praise to God,” “he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12:23-24).

A good father does not punish his children without explaining why. I would not take the car keys from my sons in college and expect them to figure things out on their own. Jesus taught us, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). So I can assume that my Father would not initiate physical death or pain to punish his children without telling us so.

As a result, I can conclude that he did not cause my father’s death as punishment for his sins or mine. At this writing, it has been 28 years since his death. At no point before or since has God given me any indication that sin led to my father’s passing. If our family is being judged for something we’ve done wrong, we certainly haven’t been told what it is.

I am aware of no word from God which warned Galveston to repent before the hurricane struck, or South Ossetia to repent before the Russian army arrived. God can indeed initiate natural disaster and human suffering, but always for a reason. All across the Bible, he told people what it was. Since his nature doesn’t change (cf. Hebrews 13:8), it seems reasonable to assume that he still does.

Suffering for good?

But what of suffering caused by God for the sake of spiritual growth? God required Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, not because he wanted the boy to die but because he wanted his father to trust him unconditionally. He required his priests to step into the flooded Jordan river so he could show them what happens when we trust him completely.

Could it be that God caused my father’s death and all the innocent deaths I have witnessed in order to produce spiritual maturity in those who have survived them? Could he have caused the current financial crisis in order to call us to stronger faith in him? Again, it seems in Scripture that God does not initiate such tests without making clear his intention. He can use anything which happens for our spiritual good (Romans 8:28). But when he intentionally causes suffering for such a purpose, it seems that he notifies those who are to grow as a result.

So I assume that suffering is initiated by God as punishment for sin or motivation for spiritual growth only when he says so. He will not allow us to plead ignorance before him on Judgment Day. If we are intended to repent or grow as a result of something he has caused in our lives, we’ll know it.

Every time I’ve experienced conviction or punishment for sin, the reasons for my suffering were very clear to me. Those times when it seemed obvious that God led me into difficult circumstances for the sake of spiritual growth, I knew what was happening. When I spent a college summer serving as a missionary in East Malaysia, I encountered the loneliest days of my entire life. But I knew going in that it would be so, and that my Father wanted me to learn to depend more fully on him.

So I conclude that God permits natural suffering and death, but only causes it when he tells us so. He did not initiate the innocent deaths I have witnessed, though he permitted them as a consequence of misused freedom or this broken world. He did not cause the economic crisis, though he intends to redeem and use it. I’m grateful that my Father does not cause suffering in capricious ways, that he does not initiate innocent pain or death without a redemptive reason.

We live in a fallen world

God created our planet and allows it to function according to the laws of nature. Even in the Garden of Eden, a fall from a tree would have hurt. Since the fall of creation, natural disasters and diseases are part of life. God allows them to occur in the same way he would have allowed Adam to cut himself on a rock. But they’re not his fault or choice.

In the same way, my father’s heart disease was not caused by God but by our fallen world. A baby’s death was not her fault but Adam’s. Hurricane Ike was caused by atmospheric conditions which were affected by the Fall. God permitted what he could have prevented, for reasons we’ll not understand fully on this side of eternity. But he did not initiate them.

I’m aware that critics may question the difference. If God permits what he could prevent, isn’t he as liable as if he caused the suffering in question? If I allowed a child to fall from a crib when I could have stopped him, I would be as guilty as if I had pushed him. If God permitted my father’s heart disease when he could have prevented or healed it, isn’t he as culpable for it as if he caused it?

Perhaps he’s culpable, but he’s not capricious. He does not cause pain without a perfect reason. And he does not initiate suffering unless we know at least some of the reasons why. The rest of the time he permits the natural order to continue, and redeems the suffering it causes.

God permits all that happens, or he is not all powerful. He initiates only that pain which he explains to those who suffer, or he is not all loving. And he redeems all that occurs in his creation, or he is not both. How could he do anything else and be our perfect Father?

So, who’s in charge?

To summarize, here’s the way I’ll view the question of sovereignty and freedom from now on. First, God permits or causes all that happens outside of human decision, either as the result of the natural processes he has created or his own intervention in his creation. The trees and squirrels I can see outside my window right now are the direct expression of his sovereign will.

Second, God has chosen to honor the free will he has given us. He wants us all to be in heaven but knows that some will refuse his love. His grace is unconditional but not irresistible.

Third, God permits or causes innocent suffering such as natural diseases and disasters. Unless he permitted or caused my father’s early death, he has no power to permit or cause anything else in the natural order.

Fourth, he permits rather than causes that suffering which is not the result of sin or intended directly for spiritual growth. There are times when he does bring suffering as judgment on sin or to mature our faith. But we will know when our pain is intended for such purposes. And so he permitted rather than caused my father’s death.

Last, he redeems all he permits or causes. Because he is holy, he can allow or create only that which is for his highest glory and our best good. Even when I cannot see evidence of that good, I must trust that it exists now and in eternity. I don’t have to understand an airplane to get on one. I don’t have to understand all the ways God is redeeming my father’s death to believe that he is. Now I see God through a smudged, dirty window, but one day I will see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). And be able to ask him some very hard questions.

I cannot imagine how God could have arranged things better than he has. Given that we must be free if we are to worship God and love each other (Matthew 22:34-40), he had to give us freedom and then choose to honor it. The result is a fallen world filled with fallen people. He must permit these consequences and the natural suffering they produce, or we’re not truly free. But since he wants to redeem his fallen creation, he must be free to act within it both to judge sin and to encourage faith. Since he is love, he must redeem all he permits or causes.

Now, where is this issue yours? How has God disappointed you? What undeserved suffering have you experienced? You can believe that your Father permits or causes nothing he will not use for his glory and our good, or you can believe that he is capricious and unloving, or powerless, or nonexistent. You have no other options.

We can decide not to trust God because he has disappointed us. Since a doctor’s advice didn’t help me with my migraine headache, I can choose never to trust physicians again. But then I’ll never know that I can.

It’s a step of faith, to be sure. But refusing to trust doctors doesn’t hurt the medical community so much as it hurts me. Refusing to trust God with my unexplained pain doesn’t hurt heaven so much as it hurts me. Choosing to trust means that we might be disappointed by God. Choosing not to trust guarantees it.

Which choice is yours?

The Fifth Great Awakening and the Future of America

The Fifth Great Awakening

and the Future of America

James C. Denison

There is a Fifth Great Awakening occurring in our world today. According to David Barrett, author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, 82,000 people become Christians every day. More are coming to Christ than at any time in Christian history. Today, 32,000 will become followers of Jesus in Africa, 25,000 in Asia, and 17,000 in Latin America.

More Muslims are becoming Christians than at any time in the history of Islam. Thousands of Muslims are seeing visions and dreams of Jesus and coming to faith in him as their Lord.

Saudi Arabian Muslim leader Sheikh Ahmad al-Qatanni recently reported on al-Jazeera television that every day, “16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity.” He claimed that Islam was losing six million a year to Christian faith. While he could be inflating his numbers to incite Islamic reaction against Christianity, it is clear that a significant Christian movement is occurring in the Muslim world.

However, of the 82,000 coming to Christ every day around the world, only 6,000 are in Europe and North America, combined. While much of the world is experiencing an explosion in Christian growth, we are living in a time of unprecedented skepticism in the Western world with regard to historic Christianity.

According to the latest American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), the number of Americans who describe themselves as “Christian” has dropped from 86% to 76% since 1990. At the same time, the number of those who say they have “no religion” has nearly doubled to more than 15%. The number of those who call themselves “atheist” or “agnostic” has quadrupled, and is now almost twice the number of Episcopalians in our country.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released their “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.” Among its findings:

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion, or no religion at all.

Among Americans ages 18-29, one in four say they are not affiliated with any religion.

Spiritual trends in Europe are even more discouraging. A recent Harris Poll conducted a large survey of religious beliefs in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. America was the most religious country, with 73% describing themselves as believing in “any form of God or any type of supreme being.” Behind us, belief in the existence of God falls quickly: 62% in Italy; 48% in Spain; 41% in Germany; 35% in England; and 27% in France believe in any form of a supreme being.

In Great Britain today, there are four times as many Muslims attending mosque on Friday as Christians attending worship on Sunday. Twenty-five percent of Brussels is Muslim. Fifty-four million Muslims live in Europe; their numbers will continue to increase due to immigration and high birth rates.

I recently participated in a debate with Christopher Hitchens, author of god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. His book reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List in only its third week of publication. Mr. Hitchens and other well-known atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dawkins are selling millions of books to our culture.

Why are we not seeing a great spiritual movement in Western Europe and North America? Because we live in a culture which views God as a hobby. In our society, Christianity is for church, religion for Sunday. Our faith is to be kept separate from the “real world.” But everywhere God’s people are making God their King, the Lord and Master of every day and every dimension of their lives, the Fifth Great Awakening is coming. How can it come to our culture? God’s word contains our answer:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

Do we need a spiritual awakening?

A “spiritual awakening” can be defined as a socially-transforming spiritual movement. A “revival” is a spiritual rebirth which transforms a person or a church or even a community into New Testament Christianity; a “great Awakening” transforms a nation. There have been four such Awakenings in American history: in 1734, 1792, 1858, and 1904-05. Each created a movement which changed its culture and altered its history for great spiritual good.

I believe that such a movement is the greatest need of our country in these days, and that believers should be praying and working toward this purpose in every way we can. Why does America need a spiritual awakening?

As 2 Chronicles 7 unfolds, Solomon and the people of Israel have just finished their Temple. This is the high-water mark in the history of the Jewish people. Their borders extend from present-day Syria to the Sinai Peninsula. Their wealth and military might are unequaled in the region. Their king has accumulated 100,000 talents of gold (3,750 tons) and a million talents of silver (37,500 tons; 1 Chronicles 22:14)—a net worth of more than $58 billion. Solomon is also the wisest man who has ever lived. And now he has just constructed a spectacular house of worship for his nation’s God.

But Israel’s future prosperity was in no sense guaranteed.

Their Lord warned them that future rebellion would lead to his punishment. In this event he would “shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people” (2 Chronicles 7:13). In a world dependent on rain for crops, defenseless against ravaging locusts or plague, such events would be totally catastrophic.

As it turned out, their future was in greater peril than they knew. Shortly after Solomon’s death, their nation would be divided by civil war. The ten northern tribes would be annihilated and absorbed by Assyria; the two southern tribes would be enslaved by Babylon and then dominated by Persia, Greece, and Rome before their nation was disbanded and destroyed. Their nation would not be constituted again for 20 centuries, and today faces hostility from enemies on every side.

But all of this relates to Israel, the Hebrew people. Few reading this essay are Israelis. Why is this warning in the Bible? Is it still relevant to our day and our nation?

America is the world’s only superpower. Our economy, even in these difficult times, is as large as Japan, China, Germany, India, and Great Britain combined. More Americans go to church each week than in any other nation in the Western world. Surely our future is assured. Or perhaps not.

We are struggling through the greatest financial crisis we’ve seen in 80 years. The Dow finished 2008 down 35%, the worst year for the markets since 1931. The crisis has wiped out nearly $14 trillion in market value. The “Great Recession” has destroyed four million jobs, pushing unemployment near 10 percent.

Our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has continued longer than our engagement in World War II. Global climate change is accelerating faster than even pessimists were predicting a few years ago. Militant Islam continues its ascent, constituting what I consider to be the greatest threat the West has ever faced. At its root it is a spiritual movement, and must be countered by a spiritual movement of even greater power and passion.

I am convinced that God redeems all he allows or causes. We can debate the degree to which God has caused all of this, but we must admit at least that he has allowed it. For what purpose?

Will you humble yourself before God?

Our text begins: “If my people, who are called by my name…..” All who make Christ their Lord are included. We are “Christians,” literally “little Christs,” those who are the children of God and own his name. Awakening in the nation starts with us.

How? Our first step is to “humble ourselves,” to admit our need of God. We will return to this momentarily. Once we admit that we need God’s help, we “pray.” The Hebrew word describes a national plea for repentance. Then we “seek his face.” The Hebrew phrase describes a person who is returning to God in individual repentance. We see the need of the nation, then we admit the need of our own hearts and souls. In that light, we “turn from our wicked ways.” We decide to turn, to change, to realign with God, to submit to him in all our ways.

When we do these things, God promises to hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. The spiritual transformation of the culture is the result, a rebirth of nothing less than New Testament Christianity.

So we begin with humility before the Lord. It is a spiritual fact that God cannot do for us what we try to do for ourselves. If you do not believe that our city and nation needs a mighty movement of God, you will miss that movement. A doctor cannot heal a patient who will not admit an illness. God cannot give what we will not admit we need. If we do not believe that we need more of God than we have, we will not have the God we need.

God will not share his glory. Humility is the indispensible factor in spiritual movement. Paul commanded us to “be completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2). James, the half-brother of Jesus, told us to “humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). A Roman centurion told Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (Matthew 8:8), and the Bible says that “his servant was healed at that very hour” (v. 13).

A Gentile woman told Jesus that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27), and “her daughter was healed from that very hour” (v. 28). Paul said of himself: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:15). And God used him to write half the New Testament and take Christ to the entire Western world.

John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, KJV). And Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Now it’s our turn. We can point people to Jesus, or to ourselves, but we cannot do both. I cannot convince you at the same time that I am a great writer and that Jesus is a great Savior. The time has come for us to choose—will we humble ourselves? Will we seek to glorify God with everything we think and say and do? Will we be a means to his end, or will he be a means to ours?

I once heard Rick Warren say, “Stop asking God to bless what you are doing, and ask him to help you do what he is blessing.” What God Almighty is blessing is a global spiritual awakening, a movement of the Holy Spirit wherever God’s people humble themselves, pray, seek his face, and turn from their wicked ways. That is what God is doing in these days.

Here’s the question: Will you join him? Will you admit that your church and community and nation needs more of God than you have known? Do you need to experience the power of God, a transforming spiritual movement? Will you admit your need of God and humble yourself before him? Will you seek to glorify him with everything you think and say and do this week? Will you pray every day for spiritual awakening to come to America, starting with you?

Emerson insisted, “One of our illusions is that the present hour is not the crucial hour.” He was right. We don’t have another year or another day to wait. The hour is upon us. We must seek awakening, while there is still time. Tomorrow is promised to no nation, including ours.

Will you pray for your nation?

If you were asked to name the world’s greatest military, strongest economy, and largest empire in the year 1900, the answer would be Great Britain. If you were asked to guess the army with the most troops, tanks, artillery, and nuclear weapons in 1980, the answer would be the Soviet Union.

Can the same happen to America and the West? Is it happening to America and the West? Consider the cultural crisis of our time, our battle with Radical Islam.

All Muslims believe that God’s final revelation is the Qur’an, and that he wants all people on earth to convert to Islam. Radical Muslims take two steps further. First, they teach that the West has been attacking the Islamic world since the Crusades and especially with the establishment of Israel. Second, they believe that since the Western world is democratic, where we elect our leaders and our taxes support our military, none of us is innocent in this attack.

Since the Qur’an expressly forbids Muslims to initiate violence but requires them to defend Islam, these points are critical to understanding 9-11 and the mind of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations like Hamas. In their minds, lobbing rockets into Israel is a defense of Islam mandated by the Qur’an.

We have been at war with Muslim extremists far longer than most people realize. We could begin our reckoning with the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. Consider the following:

In April of 1983, Hezbollah attacked the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 and wounding 120.

In October of that year, another Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked the American barracks at the Beirut airport, killing 241 U.S. Marines in their sleep.

In 1984 and 1985, terrorists hijacked airliners and cruise ships, killing Americans each time.

In December of 1988, Libyan agents bombed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 passengers.

In 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the garage of the World Trade Center, injuring over a thousand people.

In 1996, a truck bomb attacked American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, wounding 240.

In 1998, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked on the same day, killing more than 200.

On October 12, 2000, a boat carrying suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole, killing 17 American sailors.

On September 11, 2001, 2,740 Americans were killed by Islamic terrorists.

Radical Islam is a spiritual ideology. This war is more like the Cold War than World War I or II. Killing Osama bin Laden will not end this battle. This is a war for the souls of mankind, the battle of our generation.

Madrassas are Islamic schools scattered around the world. Saudi Arabia has spent $100 billion exporting radical Islam through these schools. There are approximately 24,000 educational institutions in America; there are more than 37,000 Muslim madrassas in Indonesia alone.

So far, the West is not responding well to this threat. As we have seen, four times as many Muslims go to mosque as Christians go to church in Great Britain today. Anglo birthrates in Europe average around 1.2 children per household; Muslim birthrates average around six children per household. Many are speaking of Europe as “Eurabia.” This is a spiritual movement, and must be countered spiritually.

Our oil-based economy is more vulnerable than ever before. There can be no doubt that oil is the gold of today’s global economy. The United States has an estimated 29.9 billion barrels of reserves, ranking 11th in the world. The top five nations (in order) are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, with a combined 716 billion barrels, 60% of the world’s supply. If the Muslim Arab world wants to shut off our oil, it can.

What can we do to face these cultural, moral, and economic crises? Undoubtedly our response must include military and economic measures. But you and I have a critical role to play in the future of our nation and culture. Our text calls us to “humble ourselves and pray.” The Hebrew word means to call for national repentance and turning to God. This is our mandate from our Maker for this day.

We must pray every day for the conversion of Muslims to Christ, for missions to the Muslim world, and for awakening to come to America. We must pray every day for a spiritual rebirth and moral awakening in America. We must pray every day for God to use this economic crisis to turn Americans from themselves to him. And we must ask for Awakening to begin with us.

A spiritual mystic once said, “There is one thing that must never be forgotten. It is as if a king had sent you to a foreign country with a task to perform. You go and perform many other tasks. But if you fail to perform the task for which you were sent, it will be as if you had done nothing at all.” Will you do what God has sent you to do for your nation?

An elderly father could not decide which of his two children should inherit his mansion, so he devised a test. He gave each of them $20, instructing them to buy something with which to fill every room in the estate. One bought straw and scattered it as far as it would go, but it did not nearly cover the mansion. The other brought candles, placed one in each room, and filled the entire mansion with light.

Which child are you?

Will you seek God personally?

Our text calls us to humble ourselves, admitting that we need a great movement of God’s Spirit. Then we must pray for our nation to turn to God in the face of the great challenges of these days. Now God calls us to “seek my face.” This is the most amazing, exciting, transforming invitation a human being can ever hear. And the most urgent.

God is seeking you

The Bible clearly depicts a God who is seeking us. God sought Adam and Eve in the cool of the Garden of Eden. He sought Noah, calling him to build the Ark which would save the human race. He sought Abram in the land we call Iraq today. He sought Jacob on that night they wrestled together, and Joseph in Egypt, and Moses at the burning bush. He sought David after the king had sinned horrifically, and the prophets to speak his word to the world.

Then he sought us in the most miraculous, unexpected way of all—he became one of us. He folded the glory and power which created the universe down into a fetus who grew into a baby who breathed our air, walked our dirt, faced our temptations, felt our pain, died on our cross and rose from our grave. We could not climb up to him, so he climbed down to us.

He sought fishermen beside the Sea of Galilee, tax collectors in their booths and trees, lepers in their abandoned loneliness, and demoniacs in their cemetery hideouts. He was the housekeeper who sought the lost coin, the shepherd who sought the lost sheep, the father who sought the prodigal son. He sought Peter after his denials and Paul in the midst of his persecutions.

And then the day came when he made you. Your God has given you a heart which pumps enough blood through your body every 24 hours to fill a railway tanker. Every day it exerts as much effort as it would take to shovel 20 tons of gravel onto a platform as high as your waist. He has made you of protons, the core of atoms. Look at the dot on an “i” in this sentence. It holds something in the region of 500,000,000,000 protons, more than the number of seconds contained in half a million years. Your Father made all of that, for you.

You live in a visible universe that is now calculated as a million million million million miles across. Through a telescope you can see around 100,000 galaxies, each containing tens of billions of stars. And you’re watching all this on a planet which spins at the speed of 1,000 miles an hour at its equator. Your Father made all of that, to make a place for you.

And then he made you. His Son died on the cross for you and rose from the grave for you. His Spirit led you to read these words. The God of the universe wants an intimate, passionate, personal relationship with you. He is seeking you.

Are you seeking God?

The question is, are you seeking him? A friend recently forwarded me this question: “Is there any logic in believing that God started his Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?”

The world’s religions have always seen worship as a kind of transaction. Make a sacrifice to Athena so she will bless your olive harvest. Practice the four noble truths on the eight-fold noble path so you can achieve enlightenment. Declare that there is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet; pray to Allah five times a day; go to Mecca; fast during Ramadan; give to the poor—all so you will perhaps be accepted by God into his paradise. Give to get. Transact business. Come to church, pray, read, give, so God will bless you or strengthen your marriage or help your family.

None of that is the biblical invitation. God says, “Seek my face,” not “Seek my favor.” Seek to know me, more intimately and passionately than ever before. Love me, for I love you. Want me, for I want you. Know me, for I know you. Seek my face.

“Seek” translates baqash, a Hebrew word which means to search out, strive after, ask, beg, beseech, desire, request, require. It describes a passionate search for something of great value. Such is to be our desire for God:

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

“Devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chr. 22:19).

Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD” (2 Chr. 12:14).

Good king Asa “commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands” (2 Chr. 14:4).

Scripture says of Hezekiah, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chr. 31:21).

The Bible says of good king Josiah, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chr. 34:3).

David assures us, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10). He later prayed, “may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!'” (Ps. 40:16).

Now the prophet exhorts us, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

God told Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13), a passage Janet framed for me to put on my desk where I can see it every day of the week.

Seek “my face,” the Lord calls to us. “Face” translates paneh, the countenance or presence. To seek a person’s “face” is to seek an intimate, face-to-face encounter with her or him. To seek God’s “face” is to seek a closer relationship with him than you have right now.

How do we seek God’s face? Desire to know God more than you know him now. Desire to be in his presence, to experience his Spirit’s touch in your spirit, to draw close to him. Make some time to do this. As with any relationship, it takes an investment of time and energy to build a closer intimacy with God. It is best to do this at the start of every day.

Seek God’s face as did the people who came to worship him in the Temple which Solomon had just constructed in our text. As they climbed the steps into the outer courts, they came singing psalms of praise to God. These were called “psalms of ascent,” because they were used as the people ascended to Jerusalem and then up the steps to the Temple. In the same way, we enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (Ps. 100:4). Sing or say a psalm, a hymn, a chorus. Praise and thank your Father for all he has done for you. Remember his last blessing and give thanks for it. Come to him in worship.

Now continue in sacrifice. The Jews brought the sacrifices for their sins to the priests, where they were laid on the altar. Jesus’ death is the final sacrifice, the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Bring him your sins and mistakes, anything which would separate you from your Lord. Ask the Spirit to show you anything which displeases your holy God, and confess it to your Savior. Claim his promise to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Now you are ready to bring your offerings to the Lord. The people brought offerings from the harvest and from all the blessings of God. In the same way, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). Submit and surrender your plans, dreams, agendas, and problems. Yield them all to him, asking him to fill you with his Spirit and use you for his glory. Ask God to make his presence real to you, to fill you with his peace and joy. And they will be yours.

God wants you to know him more than you want to know him. You must now decide—do you want to know God intimately and personally? Do you want awakening to come to your heart and life? There is an Oriental saying: “No man can carry two melons in his hand.” There is room for only one on the throne of your heart and life.

Thomas Kelly, the Quaker educator and author: “Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”

Is it yours? Will it be yours?

Will you turn from your wicked ways?

If we would experience true spiritual awakening, we must humble ourselves and admit that we need God’s power and purpose. We must pray for the nation and seek God’s face personally. Then we must align our lives with his call.

The last phrase of our key text makes the point clearly: God’s people must “turn from their wicked ways.” “Ways” translates a Hebrew word for road, path, journey, mode of action, course of life. It pictures the normal ways we live, places we travel, our lifestyles. “Wicked” translates a Hebrew word for superlative evil, that which is exceedingly wrong.

Does America need to repent of her “wicked ways”?

My parents remembered a time when moral standards were unambiguous and social expectations were clear. But that day is no more. Forty two percent of those who use the Internet view pornography on it. Ninety percent of our children, ages 8-16, have viewed pornography on the Internet, most while doing their homework. Sixty five percent of Americans see nothing wrong with premarital sex. Drunk drivers kill someone every 30 minutes in this country.

Why has the moral climate of America changed so much in recent decades? Here’s the academic answer, in brief. The Reformation shook the foundations of medieval Catholic authority. In response, a mathematician named Rene Descartes (1596-1650), in a desire to argue for objective truth and his Catholic tradition, developed a theory that truth comes through the unaided use of the mind. Philosophers in England countered that truth is known through the senses. A German thinker named Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) combined the two views, arguing that knowledge is produced when our minds interpret our sense data. However, Kant asserted, we cannot know the “thing in itself,” only our experience of it. Knowledge is personal and subjective.

Two centuries later, this approach to truth has become the dominant academic view in our country. Ethics are personal and subjective. You have no right to force “your truth” on anyone else. So long as we are sincere in our beliefs and tolerant of others, we’ll get along. The result is a culture which has lost its moral foundations.

Few Christians would claim that America’s moral climate is pleasing to God. But note that his word focuses on “my people, called by my name.” We are the first who must “turn from their wicked ways. Not Radical Muslim terrorists, or serial killers, or drug dealers. God is pointing to the things you and I do each and every day, the ways we live. God says that our ways are “wicked,” evil in the extreme.

Do you think of your sins as “wicked”? You probably haven’t committed adultery or murder this week. I doubt that you mean to harm other people. Neither do I. But the white lies, the sinful thoughts, the little things we know we shouldn’t do—all of them are called “wicked” by God. If we humble ourselves, pray, and seek his face, we will see ourselves in the light of his holiness. Then we will see our sins the way he sees them.

That’s what happened to Isaiah when he saw the Lord high and lifted up—he cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). That’s what happened to Peter when he saw the miraculous power of Jesus—he said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). That’s what happened to John on Patmos when he saw the glorified Jesus—he fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17).

When we see our sins as God sees them, the way to get off of the wrong road is to stop now. The further we go, the further we’ll have to go back. Decide you want to go the right way, “turn from your wicked ways,” and go there.

How? Begin with a “spiritual inventory.” Make some time to be alone with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your life which displeases the Father. Write down what comes to your mind, specifically and honestly. Confess your sins individually, with repentance and contrition. Claim God’s promise to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Do this regularly. Know that God is ready to forgive every sin you’ll confess, but that he can heal your land only if he first heals his own people. America’s repentance begins with yours.

Gypsy Smith, a great evangelist of an earlier generation, was asked how revival begins. His response: “Take a piece of chalk, and draw a circle around yourself. Get on your knees and pray until everything in that circle is right with God, and revival will be upon us.” Will you take his advice today?

Will you pray for Awakening?

God calls his people to humble ourselves, admitting that we need a great movement of the Holy Spirit; to pray for our nation to turn to God; to seek his face with personal intimacy; and to turn from our sins and failures. If we do, his promise is clear: “then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

God has honored his promise every time his people have fulfilled its conditions.

The First Great Awakening began in 1734. The crisis in the colonies was severe. Moral conditions were dire. Not one in 20 people claimed to be a Christian. Samuel Blair, a pastor of the day, said that religion lay as it were dying and ready to expire its last breath of life.

But Theodore Frelinghuysen, a Dutch Reformed minister who had come to the colonies from Holland in 1720, would not give up on his adopted homeland. He began praying fervently for revival to come to the colonies, first with himself and his church, and then with his larger community. Others began joining his fledgling prayer movement. The Spirit began to move.

Then Jonathan Edwards, an intellectual recluse who studied 12 hours a day and read his sermons, face buried in the manuscript, experienced the anointing and power of God. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God shook his church and then the young nation. The preaching of George Whitefield gathered and galvanized thousands. The First Great Awakening was the result. As much as 80% of the colonial population became identified with a Christian church. It started with a group who prayed for the power of God to extend the Kingdom of God in their Jerusalem and around the world.

The Second Great Awakening began in 1792. After the War for Independence, social conditions grew even more deplorable than before. Drunkenness became epidemic; out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed alcoholics; 15,000 died of the disease each year. Women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, wrote to James Madison, Bishop of Virginia, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” A poll taken at Harvard University found not a single believer. Two were found at Princeton. Tom Paine claimed that “Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years.”

But he was mistaken. In 1784, a Baptist pastor named Isaac Baccus gathered a number of ministers. They wrote a circular letter, asking believers to pray for awakening. Prayer groups spread all over New England. In 1792, revival broke out on college campuses, where hundreds were converted. “Camp meetings” spread across the frontier; eventually more than a thousand were meeting annually. Churches doubled and tripled in membership. One Baptist church in Kentucky with a membership of 170 baptized 421 during a single revival meeting.

In that year, William Carey began the modern missions movement. The American Bible Society, American Tract Society, and a variety of missions organizations began as a result of this Awakening. All because a group prayed for the power of God to extend the Kingdom of God in their Jerusalem and around the world.

The Third Great Awakening is dated to 1858. The Gold Rush of 1848 had led to a booming economy which crashed in 1857. If it were not for the Great Depression of the 1930s, the collapse of 1857 would have that title. Fear of civil war was increasing. Turmoil was everywhere.

In the midst of such fear and anxiety, a group of laymen began meeting for prayer on Wednesday, September 23, 1857 at the Old North Dutch Church in New York City. They were led by a Presbyterian businessman named Jeremiah Lamphier. The first day, six people came to his prayer meeting. The next week there were 14; then 23; then the group began to meet daily. They outgrew the church and began filling other churches and meeting halls throughout the city. Such meetings spread across the country.

The result was one of the most significant movements in Christian history. More than a million were saved in one year, out of a national population of only 30 million. 50,000 were coming to Christ every week. The revival continued into the Civil War, where more than 100,000 soldiers were converted. Sailors took the revival to other countries. Thousands of young people volunteered for mission service. It all happened because a group prayed for the power of God to extend the Kingdom of God in their Jerusalem and around the world.

The Fourth Great Awakening began in Wales in 1904 in the heart of a coal miner named Evan Roberts. He was convicted of his sins by the Spirit, and turned to God in prayer and repentance. He then began preaching to the young people in his church, calling them to prayer and repentance.

Prayer meetings broke out all over Wales. Social conditions were affected dramatically. Tavern owners went bankrupt; police formed gospel quartets because they had no one to arrest. Coal mines shut down for a time because the miners stopped using profanity and the mules no longer understood them.

The revival spread to America, where ministers in Atlantic City, NJ reported that out of 50,000 people, only 50 adults were left unconverted. In Portland, Oregon, more than 200 stores closed daily from 11 to 2 so people could attend prayer meetings. In 1896, only 2,000 students were engaged in missionary studies; by 1906, 11,000 were enrolled. All because a group prayed for the power of God to extend the Kingdom of God in their Jerusalem and around the world.

Now there is a Fifth Great Awakening on the move around the world. Will it come to America? No question is more urgent for our nation in these critical days.

Two centuries ago, Alex de Tocqueville traveled across America for his French government, searching for the secrets of our nation’s successes. Here is his report:

I searched for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I searched for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forest, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Will you join me in praying fervently for a Fifth Great Awakening in America today?