August 10, 1999

 Crucially affects our future
'What if?' for JFK Jr. raises key question


"S"o teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

My grandmother once said to me when I was perhaps ten, "Son, the young can die; the old must die." A young man we knew had been killed, and she was quietly observing that no matter our age, we must consider that death can come at any time.

Grandmother's perspective came to mind at the sudden death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, in a plane crash off the Massachusetts coast, something that both saddened and riveted America, and much of the world.

The media coverage of the death of these three, notably JFK Jr., seemed to lose all proportion. Not since the untimely death of Princess Diana has there been such a profusion of hyperbole, as young JFK was variously canonized as America's son, the world's child, a prince, a crowned prince, the last prince of Camelot - Camelot being how John F. Kennedy Sr.'s presidency was sentimentally symbolized by some after his assassination in 1963; and "where we all had our eyes for the last 35 years" as one network broadcaster gushed about JFK Jr.

Nonetheless in the midst of all of this overstatement, media reporters at times did raise a very fitting question, "What if...?". They raised it generally along the lines that since the life of this child of Camelot was tragically cut short, he will be forever etched in our memories as young - all his promise and potential would be a question we would never have the answer for, "What if...?"

Putting aside the embellishments for JFK Jr., "What if...?" is a necessary question to ask otherwise. Let's take two pivotal ones.

The most sobering and decisive place to ask such a question goes to the very heart of what is now defining us as a culture and determing our future. It concerns our aborted unborn, now some 38 million since 1973, and counting. Each one of them had a life ahead. JFK Jr. at least had 38-plus years; they have had nothing. Instead they have been killed before birth, not by accident, but by our calculated choices - choices we've rationalized through that most unthinkable of modern self-deceptions which says that exterminating human life in the womb is morally okay. The millions we have so slain are the forever-never-born!

What if they had lived? Or, are we afraid to consider that?

Consider it we must, because God considers it: "The Lord hates...hands that shed innocent blood" (Proverbs 6:17), and their innocent blood is on our collective hands. Their blood cries, like Abel's, to God for vengeance (Genesis 4:10).

We face His just judgment: "See, the Lord is coming out of His dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will also disclose the blood shed upon her, and will conceal her slain no longer." (Isaiah 26:21)

Ringing over us is the curse on Nineveh: "Woe to the bloody city," (Nahum 3:1). And the curse on Edom: "I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you!" (Ezekiel 35:6)

Only repentance will save us.

But the preaching of repentance that will save us must come from our pulpits, which brings up a second key place where "What if...?" must be asked.

The saying goes that as the preachers go, so goes a nation; so for the future of our nation, we in the pulpit must be confronted with "What if...?" In fact, the question needs to hit us with a jolt: What if we preached repentance, clearly and caringly?

Given the enormous sin of our nation and our assured just judgment, what if we preachers set aside our fear of man or our fixation and dependence on following whatever wind of doctrine or practice is getting all the latest attention in conferences, magazines, books and tapes, and really - really - fastened ourselves on just carefully and fully preaching God's Word? What if we expounded God's Word with anointing and passion, but not hijacked by whatever tickles the ears of those in our pews nor tainted by whatever is the trendy fad of the moment? What if we clearly preached, motivated singly by that grandest of aspirations: to only please our beautiful Lord?

Our Savior and Lord began His ministry preaching repentance; and in His letters to the Seven Churches, five times He called churches to repent. Can we do less?

In the eulogy of JFK Jr., it was said that like his father, he "had every gift but length of years." This brings to focus that prayer in Psalm 90:12, the same prayer that pressed to my heart at the news of Princess Di's death: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Both individuals and nations need to number their days. All die. The heart of wisdom now would compel us to repent - individually and nationally. This may we preachers proclaim!

However, if we preachers dismiss what wisdom would now mandate and do not speak God's Word, candidly and compassionately, we will then abandon our nation to its final judgment. And when that judgment falls, as fall it assuredly will, the question - then too late - will be "Why didn't we preach the proper Word of the Lord?"

The blood of our nation will be on us.

Such a tragic consequence is not worth man-fear or fad-following!

The late Leonard Ravenhill urgently called for America to repent, and wrote a book, America Is Too Young To Die. Mr. Ravenhill was right, America - and nations of the West - are too young to die. But as my Grandmother said, "the young can die."

And the very sobering reality is that, if we complacently follow the sunny platitudes of modern politicians and sycophant preachers who, treacherously against the evidence, ongoingly assure us that everything is just fine, that we don't face judgment, we will find ourselves grievously like JFK Jr., suddenly plunged to destruction!

Let us join in prayer:

Our beautiful heavenly Father thank you for the gift of life. But may we be reminded that our days are numbered, we face death. And none of us knows when that day will come. Afterward will be our judgment. Teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom - your wisdom - and turn to you in repentance! And may we also do this as a nation. We as a nation are sinning - sinning in such ways as killing our unborn. We have the blood of our aborted unborn on our collective hands and face Your just judgment, unless we repent. May we in all urgency do that, repent. Give us preachers, a nation of them who understand this moment and command us to repent. And may You in your mercy heal our beloved land.

John Anderson has been in ministry over 34 years, including 24 years serving three churches. Since 1988 he and his wife, Esther, have been in traveling ministry across the world. Recently they have based their CRY OF THE INNOCENTS MINISTRY near Washington, D.C. John is editor of The Pastor's Alert, a publication of The Alliance for Revival and Reformation. He is author of two books, CRY OF THE INNOCENTS and THE CRY OF COMPASSION. He and his wife travel extensively in speaking engagements; and is one of those available from The Alliance for such engagements. You can reach him via e-mail at