Peace if possible, truth at all costs.
In his essay, The Fate of Empires, the soldier and diplomat Lieutenant General Sir John Glubb analyzed the life cycles of an empire and found remarkable similarities between them all. He found that the lifespan of an empire lasts about 250 years and is defined by 6 ages. These include the age of pioneers, the age of conquest, the age of commerce, the age of affluence, the age of intellect and the age of decadence. The latter being influenced by an overextended military, the conspicuous display of wealth, a debasement of the currency, the desire of many to live off a bloated state and a cultural obsession with sex.
At the end of an empire’s life factions arise from within touting the hopes of making it great again but the lack of integrity and morality, a pervasive sense of apathy and growing amoralism, lead to the failed reclamation of excellence for posterity’s sake and they lose supremacy while grasping for it.
It is clear that when placing America under this lens we are manifesting the latter stages of an empire as defined by these 6 ages and their corresponding traits. But as the “go west young man” mantra reaches its diminishing return the new frontier shifts to technology and with it births a brave new world of globalization. What is happening in our world is bigger than America. For the American, especially the Baby Boomer and their successor generations who only know of post World War II excess, the thought of a United States that is not omni in every aspect is beyond their mental faculties, to the point of collective delusion.
Speak truth in the face of collective delusion.
Today in our society and world we are witnessing the need for systemic reform at every level, in the political, financial and even religious arena. It is the reason for the emergence of Bitcoin and even Donald Trump, these disruptive elements act as a Trojan horse and represent a shift, a changing of the guard from the old world to the new, from one age to another, and their convergence is no coincidence.
We are at an epochal shift, a shift from one age to another and the signs are all around us. From the political rancor and growing polarization leading to the incapacity of leadership globally to make progress, the push to blur national lines and identities into one global state with global citizens, the emergence of digital currency and financial technology which makes it difficult for sovereign nations to both tax and manage innovation. Religion or spiritual life being overtaken by a vast apathy and amoralism driven by secularism and the seduction of worldly pleasure.
It is a trajectory driven by the sovereign hand of God.
For those clinging to the past and trying to make the future great by replicating the old paradigm with all its malfeasance, the old guard will find themselves beating the wind as the new wine bursts their wine skins at the patches. It is a fool’s errand of the highest order. For the Lord is doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?
You say, “I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing”. You say our churches are big and powerful, we have political influence, but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I can not help but compare the content of the First Great Awakening to the messages of today. Somehow we have drifted from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to a God that is never angry at sin or inequity. We no longer have the need to repent because of God’s love, we can merely drift in our tepid malaise downstream with the current of the damned and somehow, in our mind, experience a spiritual awakening.
We define the love of the Father in a dysfunctional state where only gifts are given but discipline never enforced, sin never purged, the mark of a spoiled child. Perhaps the wealth and mass following that we perceive to be greatness is folly and a fleeting mirage, an illusion of power, where when tested by fire will see great apostasy and separation. What stands before us is a generation with itching ears, one that receives only that which feels good, what is soft and pleasant, while rejecting both the messages and the messenger of repentance.
We must digest every truth of God even that which is hard to swallow. There is much we are missing or purposefully ignoring because it won’t fill seats, it is something the people won’t get behind with their presence or personal finances. Therefore, in our democratic and consumerist state the people lead the priests to build idols rather than worshiping the one true God. We blanket our sin with perfume in order to lie to ourselves believing that we are actually seeking the heart of God when in reality we are creating a false image of Him. We omit that which people can’t stomach or swallow and therefore allow Satan to steal not only the depth of relationship but maturation through discipleship, the sanctity of surrender. We exchange the truth for a lie, life for death, our future hope for that of cultural slavery.
Perhaps this comfort is lukewarm water driven by wealth and prosperity, to where we are neither hot nor cold which is preventing the breakthrough we so desperately need? And, would God need to spit us out and hand us over to our idols in order for us to see our need and dependence on Him alone, not relying on America’s prosperity, power or politics?
The American Christian will have to reconcile in the future that God’s provision is not necessarily the American definition. That the excesses we enjoy today have never been seen before in world history. That individualism will have to be sacrificed for community. That conflict and war, to which we are largely exempt from at home, may become a reality on our soil in a way other nations have understood for decades. That Christian persecution will be as real in the United States as it has been in the Middle East. We need to be careful with our prosperity and comfort defining how we view the world and the characteristics of God. To this degree our culture and circumstance are leading and that is a distorted view of Him.
Although rich in abundance God operates in seasons, times of plenty and times of drought, times of laughter and times of mourning. But in all of them the point is the same: do you take God at His Word? Do you believe He is good when life is not? Can we remain as steady and constant in our faith during times of need as we did in times of plenty? They are best reconciled in our spirit now rather than later. No matter how painful our circumstance God is working something in us that is good, even if it is only to make us more like Christ, which in the end is the point of our sanctifying life.
We are at an epochal shift and the generations ahead, should the Lord tarry, will be defined by how we reconcile these moments. How we account for our current trajectory and how we respond to the Holy Spirit. Revivalists and forerunners must be willing to give their lives standing in the gap, interceding and asking the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf even to the point of allowing their own blood be spilt if necessary to water the seeds of revival and bring forth fruit of true Christ following, not a cultural norm of idol worship, of God and country, but of Christ alone. For this is bigger than an empire, those which will fail, but of a Kingdom that can not be shaken and is eternal.
There is only one hope for the world and it is not the Church, it is Christ, and no this is not semantics. Only the Triune God is exceptional and if Christ be lifted up, Christ alone, we will find that for which we strive.
May God not hand us over to our powerless idols.
Let us rest in Him yet confront with the fire of the Holy Spirit, with all zeal and boldness, the prevailing apathy in our midst issuing the call to repent. If the Church be drunk on the wine of the harlot may we return to drink only from the cistern of our God being comforted then by His healing love and powerful hands.