Today we are confronted with some statistics concerning young people that show the situation here in America is appalling. Derek is quick to maintain that Scripture provides the promise: “But God....” As we know and see the enemy flooding into our country, we know that God will raise up a standard for His people to draw together. We meet at the place of prayer.
I just want to do something to acquaint us, confront us with the situation in our nation today. The result of self-love, the result of backslidden church that doesn’t present the truth and demonstrate it, because this nation of the United States has had a greater share of God’s blessing than any other nation that I know of in history. No other nation has been blessed spiritually, materially, culturally, in every way as the United States of America. Most of you were born American citizens. I’m different. I chose to become one. I consider it a privilege. I obtained my citizenship in 1970. I have to tell you. The nation that I became a citizen of in 1970 is not the nation that I am living in today. I’d have to say the same about the country I grew up in, Britain. People whose memory doesn’t go back to World War II, there’s no way to tell them what it was like. It wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of mistakes and wrong things. But it was totally different. In Britain, before World War II, a woman could walk alone, day or night, in any city of Britain without any fear.
Now let me give you a few statistics. I’m not great on statistics, but these were taken from a report in the U.S. News and World Report which is basically a reliable source. It is headed, “In One Day In America.” It’s speaking particularly about what happens to young people, because remember the young people are the future of this nation. These are the details:
In one day 2,753 teenagers get pregnant
1,099 teenagers have an abortion
367 teenagers miscarry
1,287 teenagers give birth
666 babies are born to women who have had inadequate prenatal care
72 babies die before one month of life [That’s every day.]
110 babies die before their first birthday
Every day nine children die from gunshot wounds
Five teenagers commit suicide
609 teenagers get gonorrhea or syphilis
988 children are abused
3,288 children run away from home
49,322 children are in public juvenile correctional facilities
2,269 illegitimate children are born
2,989 kids see their parents divorced every day [in America. In some ways I think that’s the saddest statistic of all, and is probably the root cause of many of the others.]
So how are we to view that situation? I thank God there’s a little phrase that comes from time to time in the Bible. It says, “...but God...” The situation is appalling, but God has not gone out of business. In His mercy He has not washed His hands of America, or the other Western nations and said, “I’ll give you over to yourselves. You’ve gone too far. You’ve trespassed to much on my grace.” He has not said that.
There’s a Scripture in Isaiah 59:19, it’s the second half of the verse,
“...When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.”
So when the enemy has done his worst, that’s when God is willing to intervene, through His Holy Spirit, and lift up a standard.
Now in warfare in Biblical times, every military group had a standard bearer, who was a very important person. And each group, say in the Roman Army, had it’s own particular sign on its standard—an eagle or a lion or a bear or whatever it might be. And if a military company, whatever it might be, is being defeated, scattered, the commander will tell the standard bearer, if possible, to find some elevated piece of ground and lift up the standard. The soldiers are trained, when they see the standard lifted up, to regroup around that standard and take up the battle once again. I think that’s what God wants to do. He wants to lift up a standard by His Holy Spirit, and when those who are really the soldiers of the Lord see it, whether they are Baptists or Presbyterians or Catholics or even Pentecostals, they will say, “That’s my standard. That’s where I belong. I’ll take my stand there with the other people that get around that standard, whoever they are. I may not agree with all their theology, but if their standard is that, that’s mine too.”
I believe God is doing that. He has begun to do it, and He’s going to continue. Out His mercy, out of His grace. We have no claim upon Him whatever, “...But God...” I’ll tell you, Brothers and Sisters, wherever I see that standard, that’s where you can look for me. Even if I have some minor theological differences, I want to be where the Holy Spirit is lifting up a standard, and the name on the standard is JESUS. Where He is lifted up, I’ll gather with those that are around that. I believe God has predicted and is in process of carrying out a promise of lifting of up the standard by the Holy Spirit. It’s the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost, after the Spirit had been poured out and the people had gathered, he quoted a prophecy of Joel. Acts 2:17-18,
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, [the last days—that’s where we are,] That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; [that’s an amazing statement. It doesn’t mean on the whole human race, but it means on representatives of every section of the human race]...”
When I came to the United States and began to minister in the 1960s and early 1970s, I had a pretty Pentecostal mindset. I thought there were certain kinds of people that could be baptized in the Spirit and others couldn’t. Well, I started my American career in Minneapolis and I met a Lutheran lady. Well I knew God didn’t do anything for Lutherans. Of course, I was somewhat brainwashed because my first wife had been a Lutheran for years and had a running war with the Lutheran church. But I met this Lutheran lady and she said to me, “God filled my tooth.” I said, “God filled your tooth?” I didn’t know God filled teeth for Lutherans. I said, “What did your dentist say?” “My dentist said, ‘We don’t use material like that.’”
So don’t be too choosy about the people around the standard. If that’s their standard, it’s your standard, it’s my standard. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t lift the standard up, it will not be lifted up. Let’s go on with this. I’m going back to Acts 2:17-18
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh...”
You know He’s pouring out His Spirit on Moslems too, in quite an extensive way. All sorts of supernatural revelations, dreams and visions. Anyhow, this is what Peter says.
“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.”
So that is the Holy Spirit lifting up a standard. Notice the emphasis is on the young people. Your sons, your daughters, your young men, your maidservants. So bear in mind that’s what we need.
How will we achieve it? Well, we really can’t tell God what to do. He does surprising things. But there is one key to seeing God work, and that is prayer, and more prayer, and more prayer. I believe for most congregations in the United States today the number one priority is prayer. The situation in this nation is such that the most important meeting in any sane congregation should be the prayer meeting. Have a prayer meeting on Sunday morning.