From the monthly archives:

November 2010

Ready for Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 1953

Thanksgiving 2010
The following narrative is a history of the first years of the original English settlers in the colony of Plymouth.  The Pilgrims were men, women and children whose commitment to God and His Kingdom were a high water mark for all others.  I encourage you to read this brief history to your children or to those who you will be with this Thanksgiving.  America, our beautiful country, has a brief window of opportunity to turn again to God’s unique calling on this nation.  It must begin with knowing from where we came and the original calling that God placed on us.


The Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to “the New Jerusalem” in sixty-six days of stormy travel.  There were one hundred and two Pilgrims who were crammed into a space about equal to a volleyball court.  Because of the weather, they were below in the middle deck the entire time. With hatches battened down the stench was horrific, the travel in the mid-deck of the tiny ship cramped and they were without fresh air or sunlight the entire trip.  They subsisted on a diet of dried pork, dried peas, and dried fish which barely kept them alive.  Most had succumbed to sea sickness and could hardly eat at all.

They were indentured to business men in London whose final goodbye was to re-write their contract only days before their departure.  Initially, the debt was 1,800 pounds but they were so taken advantage of that the seven year note took over 20 years to pay off at a cost of over twenty thousand pounds.  They bore the unscrupulous debt to the last pence through the grace of God and His Word.

Their cause?  To follow God, to take the Light of the Gospel of Peace to the New World where they covenanted together with God and one another to prove the Gospel through sacrifice, humility, repentance and absolute commitment to the Scriptures.

They set out three times before they finally abandoned one ship and packed everyone as well as the supplies onto the Mayflower and departed for the final time. Having eaten most of their reserves while waiting, they knew that if they were to make a permanent stand in New England, it would be because “God works a miracle.”
It was a bitter cold end of December when they finally disembarked from the Mayflower on to the shore of what would be the new Plymouth, so named because it was the name of the town that had been so kind to them on their departure from England.  The worst of the winter was about to begin as the weary and sick Pilgrims began to build shelters against the bitter winter that bore down on the ill prepared colony.

This began the time of the “General Sickness” as the travelers succumbed to scurvy, the cold and the lack of nutrition.  The Pilgrims started dying.

  • Six dead in December.
  • Eight dead in January.
  • On January 14, the common house where the sick and dying lay caught fire exposing the sick to more of the bitter winter that had settled on them.
  • In February, two a day were dying.
  • The 21st claimed four lives.
  • March, another thirteen died.

By the time it was all done, forty-seven people, nearly half their original number were dead.   Thirteen of the eighteen wives had died.  But through it all, they remained faithful to God.  They continued to lean on their covenant with God and each other and they pressed forward knowing that the current troubles were not a reflection on God’s love but an opportunity to stay faithful to what God had called them to do.

In the middle of March as the days began to slowly warm, an Indian walked into their camp and boomed out in the King’s english, “Welcome!” … and then asked for beer!  His name was Samoset and so began the remarkable blessings of the God they served.  He sent another Indian to them,  Squanto, who told them that the place they had landed had belonged to his tribe that had been mysteriously wiped out, most likely by disease.  What was left were fields ready to plant along with the superstition among the savage tribes that surrounded them that the land was cursed so no one would venture to go there.

They learned to plant corn, made a peace treaty of mutual aid and assistance with the Indians that lasted forty years, learned to harvest the fish and game, and chose to a man to stay in this new land that they had been delivered to by the grace of God.  At the end of that first summer new homes had been built as well as common houses for the settlers. Squanto acted as guide and interpreter to the Pilgrims which was one of the greatest gifts from the Father that they had received.

It was then that Governor William Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving to be held in October.  The Indian tribe that they had befriended showed up a day early and brought 90 Indians but also 5 dressed deer and more than a dozen wild turkeys.  The celebration went on for 3 days.  Thus, our National Feast day began as a day of Thanksgiving after one of the most wretched years of our forefathers lives.

The troubles would not end with that first year though.  In November, the first ship from England, the Fortune, left off a cargo of 35 more colonists who brought nothing more than the clothes they were wearing… no equipment, no food, no tools, no bedding.  The following winter was known as the winter of starving.  Very soon after the first Thanksgiving feast all of the colonists went on half-rations and finally eating only 5 kernels of corn each day to survive.

There choice?  “Either to give in to bitterness and despair or to go deeper into Christ.  They chose Christ.  And in contrast to what happened in Jamestown, not one of them died of starvation.”

This did not happen on some foreign mission field.  These things took place in the United States.  Our land was founded on the principles of sacrifice to God, commitment to the cause of Christ, and covenants between God and men as well as between families.

William Bradford, the beloved patriot and long time governor of Plymouth, wrote,

“As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light kindled here has shown unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation… We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.”

May his prayer and hope be realized in our nation over these coming years.


Eternity in Our Hearts

November 18, 2010

He has planted eternity in the heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. Eccl. 3:11

The former things have come to pass.

Now, I declare new things… Isaiah 43:9

We are hedged in by time and space that make beginnings and endings an obvious reality.  Some events take merely seconds to complete while others take decades but beginnings and endings bind life together like bookends.  “To everything there is a season,” the old Preacher said, but God alone chooses the beginning and the end of the season. He sets the bookends whether it be the common season of 120 days or the four score of a good life. The season I am in is bound by His sovereignty, not my choice.

There are principles to know, divine laws of the Creator, that are woven into His Word.

  1. If I believe in a loving God who is engaged and directive in my life then whatever has come has purpose beyond the immediate and obvious.
  2. If the divine events that confront me day to day have purpose, then the value gained  has a timeline for learning.
  3. If events have both purpose and a timeline, there is an end to every trial and God provides the understanding that proves His good purposes.  In other words, He answers all my questions in His time.

Christians today expect the instant gratification offered with the flippancy of Twitter at the speed of fast food.  Regrettably those very expectations trump the time it takes for spiritual lessons to mature.  We bail on God’s promises because the God who promised to never leave or forsake obviously had a change of heart.  We insist we know our breaking point and complain to the One who knitted my form and skillfully wrought me in the depths of the womb.

Our complaining is legendary, our patience comical and contentment in whatever circumstances I am is a goal obviously too difficult to gain.  Yet there sits the Creator in Eternity, far above my time and space, hedging in my life for the single purpose of completing the good work He began in me.  He relentlessly pursues my best because I do not know what the best is.  This is mercy of the highest order.  It is the mercy of the God we serve.

The end of the trial always reveals the exclusionary practices of my heart.  Though I always want God’s very best, if the delivery is not to my liking I often sacrifice His best for my good enough.  Thankfully, He knows that I am but dust and there it is again… mercy.

For Jan and I the trial has lasted two decades.  Two decades is long enough to forget what normal looked like or what life felt like beforehand, by the way.  Add a couple of years of doctors blaming symptoms on stress to the litany of unpronounceable diseases and medications  and you are left with a trial that ranged from persistently irritating to Job-like.  It feels at times that I have not gained much of anything except an anemic endurance that presses on without real choice.

And now, as promised… “it has come to pass.” Life is no longer the same.  A new normal has eclipsed the waning process of diagnosis, disease, years of battle, stem-cell transplant and waiting.

People want to know the lessons.  Others, the answers.  Friends whose battles continue in the same arena stop for a moment to cheer the faint smell of victory we bring before they turn again and face their own enemy of disease. And I can only think of two things to say.  One, it has come to pass, and two, now I declare new things.

On my desk, a very small piece of paper holds words that I have read for many years now.  Rick Howard, a man who has taught me much in the limited time I have listened said,

God’s activity on me
is the guarantee of the value He places in me
and the ultimate intention He has for me.

The truth of trials is that they pass and that in the passing new directions, giftings, compassions and strengths are the deposits that remain.  In other words, I do not believe that we are delivered from one hole to be placed in another.  Life is not about today’s peculiar circumstances but about an Eternity where the bookends of time and space give way to the ultimate answers and rewards promised.  If there is any one lesson learned it is this, as long as my view only takes in today’s trials I will never see God working towards my Eternity.

I am always capable of seeing God’s better view.  It is my choice and those who choose well are the ones that you admire and wish to be like.  They are just like you, by the way. The only difference is that they have trained their eye beyond the immediate and fixed their eye on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who sits at the right hand of the throne of God… in Eternity. Beyond the bookends of time and space.  In the place where He promised a sanctuary, a home, a safe abode to take us to.

Now, it is on to listening to the new things that God has already prepared.  Just as it is written, Paul said,

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.  I Corinthians 2:9

It is the same for you, traveler.  The trial you are in has an end, “The former things have come to pass.” God will speak fresh direction, “I declare new things.”  Keep your eye on Jesus.  Keep your hand on the plow.  Harvest time is a season divinely promised and divinely kept.


Finish the Following Sentence

November 11, 2010

‘But I have this against you…‘   Revelation 2:4 I wonder… how would Jesus finish that sentence if spoken to the American Church? The American church by and large is increasingly fixated on all the wrong things.  Drawing a bigger and better crowd, gaining the condiments of success, or polishing up the musical talent is really […]

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He is God and Not Man

November 4, 2010

I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst…”  Hosea 11:8-9 I am grateful that He is not like me. I am lacking, He is all sufficient.  I am forgetful, He only forgets my sin.  I must choose everyday to forgive, He made that choice once and for all.  I love me […]

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