There was a time in our nation’s history that people had a fantastical notion that a warm Pacific current extended to the polar cap. One simply had to work through the outer crust to discover a wonderland, a Shangri-La. Explorers like George De Long, a naval officer aboard the USS Jeannette, led expeditions to the Arctic. But they were fools’ errands, and like him, many never came back.
There was no paradise full of precious minerals and exotic mammals, No temperate climate where people lived on pomegranates and played on paddle boards—where life approached perfection. Only ice and more ice (with the possible exception that Santa Clause and his elves were somewhere at work in this barren North Pole).
Watching the news last night, I could not help but see people on the same errand. We’re still chasing after dreams. If only we can get the right leadership in Washington. As if this will solve our problems and change everything. It never has and never will. There’s only one real King who alone is our hope, who alone rules all the affairs of men, but we seem to marginalize him. We nod and say, “Oh, I know this.” But really? Do we? If we did, wouldn’t we—
-rise to give our best moments of the day to God?
-lay ourselves under his will and seek his mercy and grace?
-honor whoever his sovereignty has placed in authority?
-give ourselves to values that are eternal?
-pray—Thy kingdom come?
-give our greater energies to strengthening the church?
-give more attention to the Sermon on the Mount than to nightly monologues intended to gin up the crowd?
-wrap ourselves in his clothing and not in a flag?
We have clearly lost our bearings. Sadly, when a nation most needs the church to chart the way, too many Christians have gotten caught up in the same deceptions. We are supposed to be the people who engage—rather than align—with culture. We have been summoned to be a prophetic voice, calling people back to God, but we have lost our voice. We have capitulated to the crowd and placed our hopes in lesser things. And though we won’t admit to it, some of it is fueled by our own thirst for power. So we grandstand and do our own virtue-signaling, which just might be our worst vice.
Like so many of you, I grieve at the ongoing violence, the anarchy in so many cities (especially my own). There is a massive failure of leadership. Where are credible leaders—those with character, competence, and a certain cleverness? Leaders who hold to godly virtues (like justice, compassion, and integrity), who are skillful in leading (giving direction and hope), and are wise (attuned to things as they actually are)? Where are those who discern reality and conform to the created order, who live with the sober realization that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Prov 14:12)? Too many of our current leaders are self-serving, and this is leading to a certain dismantling of the world.
It is such a strange and weary moment. Lockdowns, masks that hide our expressions and contribute to our sense of alienation, and empty church buildings. I grieve for faithful pastors, burned out in their attempt to lead excarnational gatherings. I grieve over the loss of trust in the system.
But then, I am reminded of words God shared to a disillusioned prophet named Jeremiah—
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with the horses?” (12:5)
This is God asking—“If you can’t deal with things as they are—how will you handle things as they will be?” “How will you rise to the extraordinary—if you can’t handle the ordinary?” “How will you be able to do what I am summoning you to do?“
In my study, I have a large picture with horses running—and the caption—ARE YOU RUNNING WITH THE HORSES? It compels me to daily look into my soul. It raises me above any scent of self-pity and occasional feelings of despair and asks—
-“Will you step up and put your trust in my eternal kingdom—or stay fixed on lesser, temporal things?” “Will you run after me, or chase after a fool’s errand?”