"Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed... Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, encourage-with great patience and careful instruction" (Ps 119:136; 2 Tim 4:2).

"Within the next ten years, America will experience a renaissance or a catastrophe" writes Marianne Williamson in The Healing of America (Simon and Schuster, 1997).

Chuck Colson says, "We may have five years!"

Peter Marshall Jr. says the same. And so do many others.

Williamson, certainly not writing from a biblical standpoint whose answers have a squishy, New Age flavor, does fairly accurately describe today's spiritual and moral climate:

We have lost our spiritual rudder... Our culture has lost its sense of sacred connection to any power or authority higher than ourselves. Our national conscience is barely alive as we slither like snakes across the desert floor toward any hole where money lies. Nothing short of an internal awakening will heal this wounded nation.

And she perceptively adds: "There is a new prophetic voice in
America, saying, as do all prophets, that we must repent..."

We can be thankful for that new prophetic voice, for if we are in fact on our final countdown toward catastrophe-whether we have ten years or five years, or one week-that voice, calling for repentance, may sound our only sure hope.

May it ring from thousands of pulpits-for it is from them, the pulpits of our land aflame with the Word of the Lord, where such a voice can have the most powerful impact. They may be the only place.

For perspective we can take lessons from previous societies who had countdowns: Noah's day,
Sodom, Nineveh, Babylon, Israel. Each sinned blatantly; each complacently ignored its sin; each were indifferent to its peril; each were judged. In fact, Jesus, in Luke 17:26-30, uses Noah's day and Sodom as examples to warn us about--"eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting and building"-being pre-occupied with legitimate activity--in times of great sin and looming judgment.

America-and Western nations-fit this profile. And like them, once unthinkable sins are openly advocated, and practiced. Two examples: partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage. Partial-birth abortion, where the baby is out of the womb except for the top of the head and then its brain is suctioned out, defines an unbelievable level of violence like that of Noah's day where "the earth was corrupt in God's sight and full of violence" and "the earth was filled with violence." Same-sex marriage goes beyond Sodom's perversity, to the open blasphemy of enshrining homosexual perversion within the bonds of holy matrimony. Puritan Thomas Manton said: "First we practice sin, then defend it, then boast of it." America is at the boasting part.

Let's be clear that partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage, and other such evils, are not our only sins. No, they are graphic signposts of our deeper pride and arrogance and rebellion against God from which they spring. They are the fruit of our humanistic self-centeredness.

This question begs to be asked: How long can we in
America and Western nations survive this ongoing decadence? The short answer is: Not long!

And this leads to another question: Are we facing judgment? Most certainly. God is just; and like the societies mentioned, we also face accountability for our sins. Another Puritan, Thomas Watson, said: "Let them fear death who do not fear sin."

The encouraging fact is that in such defining times God has sent defining voices, prophets, such as Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc. These stood at critical, judgment-bound times, faced complacent, self-satisfied people, and against all odds clearly and compassionately proclaimed the Word of the Lord.

Tragically the prophetic fence has long been down at the top of the cliff, with the Church largely content to run an ambulance at the bottom, picking up broken lives after they have fallen. Let's keep the ambulance-that's vital. However, let's climb to the top of the cliff and re-build the fence, pulpit by pulpit.

The prophets were fence-builders. They were also social surgeons who went after the sin killing their world. They were little concerned with niceties of manners, congeniality, positive PR, things so focused on today. They didn't squander their time in building ministries, they didn't mold their message around clever, crowd-building doctrinal fads, they didn't use Scripture to support pet views and soothe hearers. These would have been traitorous, unthinkable. No, the gravity of the conditions they often faced demanded urgency, vigor, strong medicine--an intense "return to the Lord." to penetrate hearts, bring conviction of sin and repentance. Yes, they had passion and strong words; yes, they confronted society; and yes, they spoke forcefully of judgment. But given the seriousness of the situations they encountered, with the nation's destiny in the balance and all, they didn't over-speak; their actions matched the need.

What motivated them was the heart of God: His character, holiness, love, justice--they hungered and thirsted for God. They knew God. And they knew that He was a God of mercy, of forbearance, of compassion "who relents from sending calamity."

They knew His voice and became His voice. Their messages, when heeded, were life-giving and nation-saving.

So it is encouraging that Marianne Williamson sees "a new prophetic voice in
America." And that "this prophetic voice is not a soloist, but a choir," adding "this time it will not be possible to silence one prophet, or even a few... This time, a prophetic calling is seizing the hearts of a critical mass." Again, let that "prophetic calling" resound from our pulpits.

Billy Graham prayed a fitting prayer at the
January 20, 1993, presidential inauguration: "But we cannot say that we are a righteous people, for we are not. We have sinned against you. We have sown to the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality, and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to you."

Do we have ten years? Five years? "Is it now too late? It is not, but we are in the red-zone. One thing is certain, given our sin, the only thing
America has going for it is the mercy of God. And every time we sin, every time we strut in our pride, every time we flaunt our self-will, every time we kill an unborn child, every time our President vetoes a ban on partial-birth abortion or encourages teaching homosexuality in schools, every time we brazenly argue for same-sex marriage, every time in scores of other ways we show our disdain for God's beautiful laws, we show we despise God's mercy, and further confirm ourselves in our sin, showing we deserve any judgment we receive.

It is our prayer-our very earnest prayer-that what gripped the prophets will rise out of the Word of God, penetrate our own hearts as preachers, and then powerfully flow across our pulpits into the hearts of our hearers--and on into the soul and conscience of our nation.

Such would be integral in the revival we yearn to see.