In the morning you say “There will be a storm, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to read the signs of the sky, and yet cannot discern the signs of the times?
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Ghost and The Darkness (1996.) A big game hunter named Charles Remington looks at a humiliated comrade and says, “We have an expression in prize fighting: ‘Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.’ Well my friend, you’ve just been hit. The getting up is up to you.”
That’s a fair appraisal of where the followers of Christ here in this country find ourselves in 2016. Something happened to us when the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right last year. We had voted and lobbied and marshalled all our poitical might only to be undone by five unelected justices! Really? For many, it was like a sucker punch to the gut. It felt like the last straw. Some decided to keep fighting a battle that seemed utterly hopeless. Others decided to cave and find some kind of compromise position between welcoming and affirming. Then the dreariness and discontent descended like a dark cloud
Reading Zephaniah today, I came across a word that almost leaped off the page. I had been thinking about this malaise so evident in American churches; this prevailing mood that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely a train! Then this little known “minor” prophet made me snap to attention.
“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good nor will he do ill.'” Zephaniah 1:12
That’s where 2016 finds many of us in the church: complacent. When the Jews were captured by the Babylonians, it was bad enough losing everything and being uprooted and relocated into a pagan land. But almost as bad was the haunting question, “Where is our God? Why does he look so weak and hapless?” In fact, their God had engineered the entire tragedy to bring his people to their senses. He had stripped them naked to reveal their shame.
We feel the same way today: defeated and disappointed that God could have been outflanked by activist judges. But God wasn’t outsmarted or out-voted: He is still on his throne shaping and directing history. He has stripped away all our pretense of being street smart, highly sophisticated, and media savvy. Naked, we stand here looking like hypocrites and Neanderthals, clueless about the changes in culture and the hearts of men. A wicked and adulterous generation, we can tell where the wind is blowing but have no idea where the Spirit is going.
God hasn’t been hit, but we have. The getting up is up to us. But before we can stand we will need get off our backs and rise to our knees. That’s how the army of God always advances- on our knees. And that’s the first step to having the winds of heaven fill the sails of the churches again.
With Resurrection Sunday less than two weeks away, it’s useful to remember that our God does some of his finest artwork with the dark hues and heavy oils of hopeless situations. If you and I begin the journey of repentance and searching, maybe some other complacent saints will follow. I don’t want to seem glib here: repentance and renewal begin small and move slowly. There are no quick fixes we can conjure up overnight; but a few broken-hearted saints can at least take one baby step in the right direction. So I’m praying more with others seeking revival, and am eager to hear about others who are doing the same.
Just a thought: don’t give up; kneel down.
And lift up the cross!