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Tennessee: Buckle of What Belt?

“Tennessee is the buckle of the _________ Belt.” I assume you immediately responded, “Bible.” Before a week ago I would have said the same thing, but guess what? We’re both wrong. Unfortunately, according to an article last week in The (Nashville) Tennessean, Tennessee is now known as the buckle of the “Meth Belt.” The belt stretches from Oklahoma to South Carolina. Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive, chemically produced, stimulant drug that is neurotoxic to humans, meaning it damages brain structure, causes psychosis and often leads to post-withdrawal syndrome that can persist for months beyond the typical withdrawal period for other types of abused drugs. Beyond that, you’ve possibly been revolted by the disfigured faces of meth addicts altered by the drug’s traumatic physical effects. The Tennessean article describes meth as a “plague” sweeping our state and reports that, “It touches — directly or indirectly — every person in this state.” The online article included a number of interactive maps. One by one I clicked on our 95 counties and saw we have possibly thousands of meth labs scattered across Tennessee. I can’t adequately express how my heart sank. I pictured the lives, families, and communities ravaged by this epidemic. I ran a gamut of emotion from anger, to compassion, to helplessness, to feeling a sense of urgency. It felt like seeing a commercial about starving Ethiopian children … only much closer to home. “Dear God,” I desperately thought. “What do we do? Where do we begin?” Almost immediately, my mind and spirit raced to the answer: prayer, specifically, praying that the “Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest.” I am two months into making my way across Tennessee, visiting the courthouses of these same 95 counties and asking Christians to pray with me for our state. In each location we’ve prayed three specific prayers. We’ve asked God to revive His people, the church. We’ve asked God to grant wisdom and godly leadership to our political and pulpit leaders, and we’ve asked God to bring the 3.65 million lost souls in our state to saving faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that the gospel would directly or indirectly touch every person in Tennessee. We were praying these requests at each stop before I read this article, but now I believe God directed us to these specific prayer requests because these three converge in the person of Jesus Christ and offer Tennesseans our only hope of rescue from the spiritual darkness enveloping our state. How so? Spiritual awakening has never begun with the lost; it has always had its beginnings with God’s people. We will never experience a change in the spiritual climate of Tennessee if God’s people don’t humble themselves, love one another and pursue holiness with reckless abandon. Brothers and sisters, how will these friends and family members being held in bondage know the freedom granted in Christ if we don’t speak it and live it? There has never been a time in American history that more desperately needed political and pastoral leadership. Yes, we have defeated determined enemies from beyond our borders, but never have we faced so many daunting spiritual enemies within our borders. We are self-destructing. We must pray that our political and pastoral leaders will be people of great integrity and wisdom with a unity of vision to guide us in fighting this cancer that is eating our state’s soul. And certainly we need to passionately pray for the spiritually lost. My soul cries out for God to deliver our millions from their present hell and imminent destruction. We cannot — we must not —  stand silently by and watch as our friends, families, and neighbors trudge along in a death march. Like Peter confessed, we know the One who has the words of eternal life and we must share them. Witnessing to others is testifying about the difference Jesus makes in our lives. I don’t want our state to be known as the “Buckle of the Meth Belt,” and frankly I don’t even care if we’re ever again known as, “The Buckle we used to be.” However, I do care — a lot — that Jesus is widely known throughout Tennessee, and that His Kingdom reigns in the hearts of a multitude of Tennesseans. I care, and most of you do also, that we reach our state for Jesus. That’s what I want Tennessee to be known for. How about you? //