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Jerry Falwell, Jr., Donald Trump, and the Crisis at Liberty University*

January 29, 2016

*Note: title may be designed to ignite people’s fondness for negativity /controversy.

JERRY FALWELL
I was hosted this past Wednesday by the incredible David Nasser at Liberty University for what he called a “One Day Revival.”

Liberty 1

I was privileged to stand in front of nearly 12,000 students and proclaim, “Revival Part 1: Seeing God for Who He Is” from Isaiah 6. More than half the students returned for the voluntary evening session, “Revival Part 2: Seeing Myself for Who I Am,” a truly incredible day—more on that in a minute.

Let me just say, what God is doing at Liberty University is absolutely mind boggling. What must be more than $500 million of buildings under construction, with a similar amount completed since my last campus visit three years ago—just a massive wow—with 3,600 freshman alone and nearly 10x the applicants for each of those spots. The quality of the vision, the incredible favor of God upon all they are trying to build and be . . . just astounding. But then this, as I made my way to Liberty, the announcement rolled out that Jerry Falwell, Jr., had endorsed Donald Trump for president, and the internet was blowing up with a plethora of opinions on that decision.

DONALD TRUMP
As a pastor, I don’t endorse candidates. Last week, I spoke at a caucus event for Dr. Ben Carson in Sioux City, Iowa, but I was very clear before accepting the invitation that my speech would be biblical, direct, and non-partisan. See if you think I hit the mark. My point is that I don’t think pastors should be endorsing any particular candidate, so they don’t alienate the members of the congregation who see these non-eternal issues differently. Further, I don’t believe ‘who a Christian should vote for’ is nearly as obvious or simple as some of us try to make it.

That’s why I was so encouraged to see Jerry Falwell, Jr., (not a pastor) state publicly and without apology his intent to vote for Donald Trump. I haven’t even decided who I will vote for, but I found his arguments sound, even compelling on several levels. We are not electing the best Sunday School teacher, and we need someone who knows how to turn around something incredibly complex that is teetering on the edge of financial collapse. While at Liberty University, I was blessed to sit down with Jerry for a few minutes and found him humble, remarkably capable, and wonderfully centered, given the immensity of what he carries and does.

Speaking of people who carry a lot, I read an article recently that blew my mind. It describes a Cornell University study which directly correlates a person’s skill level with their ability to accurately assess their true skill level in that area. In other words, people who are good at something are also good at knowing whether they are good at it. And that is an immense dilemma. When our country was founded, being the president wasn’t much more complex than running a used car lot—but that has really changed through 240 years. Jerry Falwell, Jr., is effectively building and managing a multi-billion dollar organization, and for that reason he is, according to this study, in a much better place than the average person to assess who is capable of being an effective President of the USA.

I am diametrically opposed (you should be, too) to criticizing members of the body of Christ in public forums, so I can’t give names of those attacking Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s announcement, which is more troubling by far than voting for “X,” no matter who “X” is.  That’s why I was upset to see people who have never carried anything heavier than a book, sounding off about Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s decision to endorse Donald Trump. The fact is that the study referenced above indicates that not only are most of us not capable of discerning the person most able to help our country, but the more sure we are of our ability to make the best choice, the less likely we actually are able. I guess I am saying that we could all use a serious dose of humility as it relates to expressing our opinions on matters not specifically spelled out in scripture. After all, it’s the way we love each other, not the way we align over politics that “all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for on another” (John 13:35).

THE CRISIS AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
I was asked by David Nasser (whom Liberty is incredibly blessed to have leading their department of spiritual programming) to preach on revival. I knew he was not asking me to talk about revival from a historical or scholarly perspective, but to actually preach the student body toward personal revival from the Scriptures. As a noun, the word revival is not in the Bible—but the verb is used many times. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you” (Psalm 85:6)? As a pastor, so much of my preaching seems to tilt toward process topics like “How to Have a Better Quiet Time” or “The Dangers of Legalism” or “The Steps to Victory over Temptation,” but revival is not a process. Revival is a move of God at a crisis moment to get our attention and, right then, draw us back into a fresh and vital relationship with Him. In his wonderful book Why Revival Tarries?, Leonard Ravenhill highlights unconfessed sin as the primary reason we don’t experience a reviving of our hearts.  Over time, our lofty and exalted view of God’s holiness is eclipsed by personal sinfulness that is not brought under the finished work of Christ, and we slip ever so subtly into what Paul calls the ‘carnal’ Christian life. What is needed then, what I have needed in my life in those moments, is a crisis—a specific moment of total repentance and fresh surrender to the Holy Spirit. This is what Hosea had in mind when he pleaded “Come let us return to the Lord . . . “ (Hosea 6:1).

What’s needed is a crisis—a specific moment of total repentance and fresh surrender to the Spirit.

That crisis is something we don’t see very often in our churches anymore. Lots of pastors preaching process, which everyone needs as the regular diet from God’s Word, but not so many anymore preaching for a crisis—or inviting in a ‘revival preacher,’ as we once did, to use those special gifts God gives some to fire up a fresh crisis. That is the road of sanctification: a lot of try and fail and try again process, with a once-in-a-while crisis, where everything becomes clear. Where my gradual slippage over many months gets moved in a moment of God getting my heart back to where it needs to be, through a genuine crisis of clarity and repentance. Several thousand students had a crisis at Liberty University this past Wednesday. I was blown away by their hungry, humble hearts and glad to be there with our Vertical Church Band to see God’s great mercy revealed in a crisis of true reviving. Praise the Lord.

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