Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful for the Pilgrims

Recently I watched a series of student interviews at a “Christian” college in the Midwest.  They were asked whether it is appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving.  The vast majority answered negatively, citing concerns about oppression and colonization.  The few that affirmed the holiday did so only as it pertains to the joys of feasting and family gatherings, apart from any historical significance.  Clearly, these students were ignorant of the real history of Thanksgiving and demonstrate the impact of indoctrination by “enlightened” high school teachers and college professors.  If such a perspective dominates the next generation we are not only in danger of losing our true history but also of squandering the freedoms upon which our nation was founded.

As I write, it is Thanksgiving Day 2019, a year before the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims in the New World.  On this day I am most thankful for the blessings of salvation through the finished work of Christ.  I am thankful for the joys of family and the fellowship with other like-minded Christian believers.  And I am thankful for the steadfast faith, love, and courage that motivated the 102 Pilgrims to sail across the Atlantic and establish a beachhead of Christian civilization in North America.

Nearly half died in the terrible rigors of that first year in the New World.  Still, they struggled on, driven by a love for God and desire to establish a civilization where their descendants could freely serve the Lord.  H.U. Westermayer has observed, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than homes.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these, who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

Yes, they planned a time to publicly declare their gratitude to the Lord for His blessings upon them in that first year.  Despite the hardships, they were filled with praise to the God they served.   The 53 survivors were joined by 90 Indians from a nearby village.  Together they feasted and celebrated.  God used the natives to provide instruction and assistance on how to survive in the wilderness.  The thought of colonial oppression did not cross their minds.  Attributing such motivation to the Pilgrims reflects the distortion of warped minds devoted to rewriting history by attributing to the Pilgrims the sins of their descendants

Gov. William Bradford described their mentality before sailing from Europe: “They knew they were pilgrims, and lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits”.  The future was uncertain, but their trust was in the God who would guide their voyage and the initial settlement at Plymouth.  Such an example inspires us to persevere in the face of life’s challenges four centuries later.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Disengaging from the Bible

Research released recently by Barna indicates that approximately one-half of American adults (48%) are “Bible disengaged.”  I.e. such people interact with the Bible infrequently, if at all.  It has minimal impact upon their lives.   Furthermore, more than one-third (35%) never use the Bible in 2019.  On the other end of the spectrum, only 5% (down from 9% last year) are “Bible centered,” meaning they frequently interact with the Bible so that its truth concretely shapes their relationships and choices.

These numbers are more than merely academic.  The lifestyles of many reflect the real consequences of ignoring the revelation of their Creator.  The breakdown of families, the scourge of drug addition, the proliferation of pornography, the plague of gender-dysphoria, and the unending violence are all the fruit of a society that has turned its back upon God. 

It is easy to complain about the nature of the politicians that represent us locally and nationally.   The lack of character and the absence of wisdom and integrity are endemic among the political class.  Many espouse certain perspectives on the campaign trail that seem to evaporate when established in office.  But the reality is that the paucity of honor and moral strength among our politicians is ultimately merely a reflection of the populace that elected them.

Consider from where we have fallen.  American statesman Daniel Webster (1850-1852) captured the essence of the Pilgrims’ worldview: “Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.”

If there is hope for America it will be found in emulating the spirit of our Pilgrim forefathers.  In our homes, our schools, our governments, and our churches, we must recapture a love for the Word of God and make it the supreme arbiter of moral and spiritual truth.   

Unless the core values of our nation change, we will continue on the fast track to societal and national disintegration.  As Christians, we must pursue the truth of God’s Word as our greatest passion in life.  And that truth will govern how we spend our time, how we vote, how we train our children, how we worship, and what our expectations are of the future.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Evangelism: The Urgency and Necessity

Among the core Christian beliefs is the existence of a place called heaven and the horrific reality of hell.  When time has expired, every person will find himself in one place or the other.  The fact that many choose to ignore this truth in no way lessens the gravity of the prospect.

Scripture unambiguously charges those who know the truth to share that life-changing message with those still in unbelief.  The message of the gospel sets men free, and we are to shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:15).  We are to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).  We are to be witnesses for Christ to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).  And we are to follow the example of Paul and pray with burdened hearts that the lost may be saved (Rom. 10:1).  Those who fill this vital role as bearers of the truth are lauded in Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation …”  There is no function in life of greater importance than being a bearer of the message of salvation through Christ alone.

Yet, in the changing cultural landscape of the Christian church, evangelism is becoming increasingly ignored, even opposed.  Barna research recently released the results of a study which found that almost half (47%) of Millennials agreed at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.  These same Millennials indicated that they are confident in how to respond when their faith is questioned.  But they are quite reticent to do so.

Among older Christians – Boomers and Elders – only about 20% hold to a negative view of sharing their faith for the purpose of evangelism.  So the perspective is definitely tied to one’s generational standing.  But given the waning influence of senior believers and the growing impact of the youthful outlook, this development is of serious concern for the future of the Christian church. 

The Old Testament illustrates what happens when a generation drifts from the core beliefs of their parents (Judges 2:10).  The sorry events recorded in the subsequent chapters of that book serve as stark reminders of the importance of both holding to the faith and passing it on to others.

The Christian’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  One cannot carry out that mandate and keep the faith buttoned up inside.