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Here we are, at last, on the threshold of the culmination of one of the most spirited and contentious elections in recent memory. By next week it will be all over.
America seems to be at a crossroads in this moment, and I predict that the election will be a nail-biter. The paths to the future lay before us. One, a new world view, where the "planet" is the thing, where "we are all children of our mother, Earth," where everybody will lay down their weapons and join hands in joyful unity, (we go first, of course), the other, a trip down memory lane, where everybody has a warm, safe neighborhood to grow up in, dinner was on the table at 6 pm, and a shiny new Oldsmobile in the driveway.
Whatever the outcome, there are going to be some hard feelings. America has been through hard times before, really hard, and always, when it gets to the point of no return, God seems to intervene and push the re-set button. Since the founding of the first colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, this nation has had a deep, unyielding connection to the Christian faith. Many have referred to the United States as a "Christian Nation." This does not mean that we are a theocracy, or ruled by somebody's particular interpretation of Christian tenets, rather, it recognizes the role God Almighty has played in our history, and the contributions that faithful citizens have made. There is plenty of room for every ideology and creed, even for those with an absence of religion entirely, but throughout our history, it has been the Christian faithful who have led the healing, the repair of our torn social fabric, when it has been necessary, and I firmly believe this will be the case now.
In the 1720's and 30's, the movement known as "The Enlightenment" was sweeping across the American colonies, creating pseudo-intellectuals and anti-theists everywhere, bringing the ideas of personal fulfillment and liberty, along with darker elements such as lawlessness, debauchery and self-gratification in all things at the expense of common decency. What passed as "Science" was the new god, and "Reason" as defined by the intelligentsia, was the new canon. Predictably, this secular, worldly outlook caused plenty of friction between the "Enlightened" and the "Religious." The Church, as an institution, primarily the Church of England and the Catholic Church had become overbearing, somewhat corrupt organizations, with a great void between the individual and God, and were not upholding the spirit of the freedom the soul thirsts for.
In December 1734, the first revival of historic significance broke out in Northampton, Massachusetts, where a young Jonathon Edwards was a pastor. After months of fruitless labor, he reported five or six people converted--one a young woman. He wrote, "[She] had been one of the greatest company-keepers in the whole town." He feared her conversion would douse the flame, but quite the opposite took place. Three hundred souls converted in six months--in a town of only 1,100 people! The news spread like wildfire, and similar revivals broke out in over 100 towns. Starting in Philadelphia in 1739, George Whitfield's dramatic preaching was like striking a match to the already-underway awakening. An estimated 80% of America's 900,000 Colonists personally heard Whitfield preach. He became America's first celebrity! This revival would come to be known as "The Great Awakening."
Many more times, when our nation's collective spirit has heaved a sigh of resignation, revival has come, and has turned things around and put us back on solid footing. In 1800, only one in 15 of America's population of 5,300,000 belonged to an evangelical church. Presbyterian minister James McGready presided over strange spiritual manifestations in Logan County, Kentucky. The resulting camp meeting revivals drew thousands from as far away as Ohio. Rev. Gardiner Spring reported that for the next 25 years not a single month passed without news of a revival somewhere. In 1824, Charles Finney began a career that would eventually convert 500,000 to Christ. An unparalleled 100,000 were converted in Rochester, New York, in 1831 alone, causing the revival to spread to 1,500 towns. By 1850 the nation's population exploded fourfold to 23,000,000 people, but those connected to evangelical churches grew nearly tenfold from 7% to 13% of the population--from 350,000 to 3,000,000 church members! This was "The Second Great Awakening."
In 1857, the North Dutch Church in New York City hired a businessman, Jeremiah Lanphier, to be a lay missionary. He prayed, "Lord, what would you have me do?" Concerned by the anxious faces of businessmen on the streets of New York City, Lanphier decided to open the church at noon so businessmen could pray. The first meeting was set for September 23, three weeks before the Bank Panic of 1857. Six attended the first week, 20 the next, then 40, then they switched to daily meetings. Before long all the space was taken, and other churches also began to open up for businessmen's prayer meetings. Revivals broke out everywhere in 1857, spreading throughout the United States and world. Sometimes called "The Great Prayer Meeting Revival, or The Businessmen's Revival" an estimated 1,000,000 people were added to America's church rolls, and as many as 1,000,000 of the 4,000,000 existing church members also converted.
Throughout our history, many other great revivals have occurred, among the notables are The Civil War Revival, (1861-1865), The Urban Revivals, (1875-1885), The Revivals of 1905-1906, The Azusa Street Revival, (1906), The Post-World War II Awakening, Latter Rain Revival, the Healing Revival, Wheaton College Revival of 1950,
The Charismatic Renewal and Jesus Movement, the Melbourne Revival, the Modesto Revival, the Brownsville Revival, and The Promise Keepers Revival, to name a few.
If you look at the timing of all of the great revivals in our history, they always come around when we need them the most, like right now. This nation has thrived and had success as a result of blessing by God and the working of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost is the manifestation of God that moves in the world, changes the hearts of men. I was struck by this thought as I watched the debate between Vice-Presidential hopefuls Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Mike Pence made a statement during the course of the debate that caused a bit of snickering on social media and late-night comedy talk shows the next day, he said, "I try to spend a little time on my knees every day." This is precisely how a movement of the Holy Ghost is started; men on their knees before God. As I thought about it, the scripture came to me, "Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish, for I work a work in your day which ye shall not believe, though a man declare it unto thee."
The basis of Christianity is the concept of God as a trinity, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, manifested in one, invoked by supplication, or prayer in the name of the father, son and Spirit, Jesus Christ. God looks on the heart of men who petition Him, so that's why the specific wording of prayers is not set in stone. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." No matter who wins this election, we have some serious healing to do in this country. Long-time friends are at odds, families are split, if you support one or the other, you might find yourself being referred to as a "racist" and "bigot" or a "war-monger" and a "freeloader."
I look forward to resuming the friendships that have floundered, and getting back to the job of being a citizen of the greatest country on the face of the earth, the United States of America.