On July 31, 1976, the natural and man-made basins and reservoirs above Colorado’s Thompson Canyon reached a critical tipping point. Several unusual rain systems seemed to have snagged on the rugged Rocky Mountain peaks. It was as if the clouds were punctured by the craggy spears of rock and the rains gushed out relentlessly.
Finally, somewhere up there, a tipping point was reached. A “tipping point” occurs when clusters of small events — like repeating cloudbursts — become weighty enough to cause sweeping destruction. So, somewhere in the Estes Park region a critical mass of rainfall had accumulated in a compression, basin, or ravine that had reached its capacity and sent a torrent down the narrow walls of the canyon. The total annual rainfall for the area was reached in seventy minutes as thirty thousand-plus cubic feet of water roared through the Canyon per second.
One-hundred forty people died, including seven young members of a Campus Crusade for Christ team.
One splash was all it took to bring the tons of water to the tipping point.
Ages ago an ancient nation, the Amorites, showed there is a tipping point of judgment. Genesis 15:16 reports that God would not permit Abram to destroy the Amorite nation because the nation’s sins were “not yet full.” However, the Lord told Abram that in the “fourth generation” that tipping point would occur, and God would remove His protective hand from the Amorites.
Are the world’s nations now in this “fourth generation” stage? Have America, China, and all the rest reached a tipping point of judgment in which their sins are “full”?
The removal of God’s protective, steadying hand is also the theme of Romans 1. There, the Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that, because of people’s rejection of God, His Kingdom values and principles:
He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip … backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy… (Romans 1:28-31 NLT)
Stormy clusters blow globally now, ranging from coronavirus to potential economic collapses, and mounting natural disasters. Is it possible that this sudden clustering of woes is a sign that our personal and national sins have reached a tipping point, and that God is allowing His judgments to descend upon us?
The critical question for all countries at this critical moment is: When in God’s eyes does sin become national, and not merely personal, and thus the entire society is brought to the tipping point of judgment?
The answer: When the government of a nation misuses its God-given authority to give official sanction to sin, the nation itself (and not just individuals within it) comes under judgment.
Thomas Jefferson was aware of this reality with regard to slavery, and that stark awareness compelled him to write: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other… I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
The build-up to the tipping point of judgment comes through sanctioned violations of God’s fundamental Laws, which establish ordered, healthy civilizations:
- The deification and worship of “many gods” rather than the true God who has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself and His ways
- The capricious “OMG” phenomenon that is the mere surface of the deeper practice of taking God’s name in vain
- The loss of the meaning of Sabbath, and the reverencing of God in His transcendent majesty
- The dishonoring of parents and heritage
- Murder — the willful killing of people, especially stark in an age when important leaders sanction the killing of the unborn right up to birth
- Stealing, whether it’s sanctioned through exploitive tax and economic policies, or outright theft
- The quickness to bear false witness against opponents whether in austere hearing rooms in a capitol building or scurrilous internet gossip, indirectly sanctioned through participation by major political leaders including even the president himself
- Coveting the spouse of another person, a major cause of the destruction of families, sanctioned by governmental jurisdictions in the form of no-fault divorce
- Coveting the property of others, another manifestation of the spirit of covetousness sanctioned by establishments who keep themselves alive through injustice and stimulating greed
Can we halt the downpours that threaten the destruction of entire civilizations, including our own? What are we to do? What are the implications for the Church?
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln and the Congress were anxious for the nation’s future. They sensed a direct connection between sin and the ruins of the “state of the union.” Lincoln and his legislators therefore declared April 30, 1863, a day of fasting, repentance, and prayer.
America and many nations are now at that critical tipping point. It is time for fasting, repentance, and prayer. But how does a nation repent? Does that mean one hundred percent of the populace must acknowledge national and personal sins? Can a government repent for its society? Where does it start?
It’s time we find out… if it’s not too late and the “fourth generation” is upon us.
Next Pt. 2: The tipping point and the church
Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.