December 17, 2008

What is God Up To?

2008 1535 page15 capN THE EVE OF THE RECENT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN THE UNITED States, I, along with my son, stood for eight hours waiting for Barack Obama’s last rally of the election season to begin in Manassas, Virginia. It was a historic moment. Something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime was, in fact, happening. Forget politics; for those in my community it was the apex of a journey that started more than 200 years ago in this country, and many of us wanted a front-row seat to watch it happen.

As I looked around at the crowd that evening—a crowd that eventually numbered 90,000 people—a thought kept nagging at my mind: What is God up to? What is the bigger picture that is happening here?
Surrounding me were people of nearly every race, standing side by side. Onto the stage came a group of young African-American males, there to entertain the crowd while we waited for the candidate. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the style of music that filled the fairgrounds that evening was music of a bygone era (golden oldies, some call it). They performed with class and style, as though they actually enjoyed a musical genre that was not from their generation.
Something about them, however, was different. I thought I detected some spirituality in them. As a believer, my spirit is sensitive to some things. They finished their performance, thanked the audience, and walked offstage.
2008 1535 page15Senator Obama was delayed in getting there, as his plane was arriving at Dulles airport outside Washington, D.C., at the peak time for the arrival and departure of planes. The crowd, meanwhile, was getting restless, as many of us had been standing for hours. On top of that the temperature was dropping. There was still excitement in the air, but things needed to get started soon.
Onto the stage came these young men again. They explained that they had been asked to come back out and sing a few more songs while we waited.
They had already performed earlier the songs that they were set to do. And we sensed an awkwardness as they struggled to find the right songs to entertain the crowd, attempting not to repeat what they had performed earlier.
Then out of nowhere they begin a litany of worship music that turned the fairgrounds for a few minutes into a sanctuary. I saw people with their hands raised to God, others praying, and still others baffled and overwhelmed by what they were seeing and hearing. Yet the latter group was wise enough not to protest the spiritual atmosphere that had taken over the place.
Here was another moment in my life when I was taken aback by how God can invade a place and “turn it on a dime” toward Himself. This was clearly an overtly political environment. People were there to support their candidate for president. But for a few brief moments God stepped in and hit the “pause” button, redirecting the audience away from the candidate and toward His Lordship. It was as if God were saying, “The candidate is not the savior; I am!”
That’s how I believe things will come down in this world as we move rapidly toward the end of all things. God is so eager to save people that He will show up anywhere and at any time, using any means necessary to turn distracted minds and troubled hearts to Himself. Obviously, God wants to use us, but He can undoubtedly do it without us.
Just as in the biblical book of Acts, God is going to use miracles, signs, and wonders to get the attention of this world. And when He opens these doors to witness, we have to be prepared to speak His Word with boldness.
We are, with certainty, in the midst of earth’s darkest hour. This earth is disintegrating physically, morally, and spiritually. But I’m convinced that we are about to witness God in all of His power—in one last, daring effort to get people saved.
What is God up to? We already know; and it’s happening right now!

Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.