Is Thanksgiving Going Away?

So let me get this straight, “Black Friday” has been replaced by “Brown Thursday”? With stores opening as early as 6:00am on Thanksgiving Day, I guess Granny will have some empty seats at the table this year (since blenders are half-price). As one who once worked in retail, I really feel for the workers giving up their family time.

Here’s the deal, I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays for a lot of reasons (a big one being great food of course). But in all seriousness, it saddens me to think that the main idea of the holiday is being sacrificed on the “door-buster-sale” altar. So, to the question, “Is Thanksgiving going away?” No, not as long as there are those of us who’ll commit to gathering for the purpose of giving thanks to our Great God for His wonderful blessings. And in that spirit, here are a few reminders about the first Thanksgiving celebration to get us started: 

  • In 1620, there were 102 people who spent 65 difficult days at sea coming to the New World to begin new lives.
  • Before leaving the ship, they created a revolutionary document called the “Mayflower Compact”.
  • Their first winter was especially brutal and claimed the lives of 58 of them, with only a few healthy enough at any time to care for the sick and bury the dead.
  • The next autumn (1621), the remaining 44 gathered with new Native American friends and specifically thanked God for His provision. 

Consider this quote attributed to one of them, “It is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage.” Wow, small things? Now those are some folks worth recognizing while enjoying the turkey and dressing. 

In case you would like to refresh your memory, here are the words of the Mayflower Compact. It’s brief, but bold. Their sacrifice paved the way for us and I’m thankful for those who committed themselves to such a challenge. God has blessed us greatly as a nation and I pray we’ll continue to thank Him for it. 

“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.  

IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.”

Does it Really Matter? The Essentials: Part 3-Who’s the Boss?

For the record, there’s much to appreciate about the modern era. Things like indoor plumbing, electricity, and advanced medical care have enhanced our quality of life; but have we progressed as humans? Some would say yes by pointing out efforts to fight hunger or new attitudes about tolerance and peace. On the surface, there appears to be a compelling argument for human progress, but how much have we really learned? Are lasting solutions as simple as the much suggested “…leaders sitting down, talking to each other and solving the problems”?

To get some perspective, let’s consider the first recorded “challenge” to mankind after the flood.

I. The First Global Summit

Genesis 11:1-9 states that everyone had the same speech and were concerned with a specific threat of being scattered abroad over the face of the earth. Why? Well, Genesis 9:1 says God had given a directive to fill the earth and even placed a “fear and dread” on the animal life ahead of the peoples’ migration (v.2). Now, considering the long life spans of Noah and his sons after the flood, there would’ve been “firsthand” knowledge of God’s previous interaction with man as they went forth. For example:  

  • The need for repopulation was a direct result of earlier generations’ rebellion toward God.
  • God fulfilled his covenant to save Noah, his family, and the land animals.
  • God was to be worshiped, praised, and served as modeled by Noah.

So what did they do? Did they reconsider and follow God’s instructions? No, they got together, talked it over and made an agreement.

 II. The First Treaty

The people rejected God’s command and chose a different path. Their idea was a grand “public works project” to build a city on the plains of Shinar (Babylon) with a tower reaching the heavens. Why? Well the Bible describes in verse 4 that they wanted to “make a name for themselves”. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with building a city and a tower, but their motive was the issue.

It would be a monument to them…as humans. The construction of something so large, generations would know they had taken charge of their destiny and defined their own reality. Hmmm, that’s starting to sound very familiar…even contemporary.

 III. Modern Towers

Currently there are several “towers” under construction in the public arena; such as the climate change industry, a push to redefine personal rights, and various global treaties (to solve every objectionable human behavior under the sun). It all sounds “cutting edge”, but is actually rooted in ancient attitudes. As a matter of fact, you can hear the echoes of the serpent’s voice in Genesis 3:5 “you will be like God” and for the most part, you can describe it in a single word-humanism.

With the Enlightenment and Greek philosophy as a resource, Roy Wood Sellars wrote the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. It stated core beliefs through 15 affirmations. Some of the points; the universe is “self-exiting and not created”, a “continuous process” is man’s origin (evolution), “old attitudes of prayer and worship” are to be replaced with a “heightened sense of personal life”, a “cooperative effort to promote social well-being” should be established, and a “socialized and cooperative economic order” needs to replace the inadequate “profit motivated society” (capitalism).

Consider how they’ve shown up in various institutions over the last 80 years, like the education field, political/legal forums, media circles, and social organizations. It’s not a conspiracy so-to-speak, but something larger, deeper, and fundamentally rebellious…it’s the “call of the tower”. For a quick overview of Secular Humanism click this link:

http://www.gotquestions.org/secular-humanism.html 

So, as we live in a culture trumpeting beliefs like “tolerance is supreme”, “conviction is narrow-minded”, and “man is progressing”, let’s learn from the story by considering God’s response. 

IV. God’s Intervention

  • He accomplished His purpose in spite of their disobedience. By changing their language, He “scattered them over the face of the earth” Genesis 11:8-9.
  • We see Proverbs 19:21 in action. It says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel-that will stand.”
  • A permanent reminder was left from Babel that’s still with us today. The languages of the world are a testimony of God’s seriousness concerning His commands and His involvement in the world. 

V. Conclusion

So what should we do while here in the shadows of modern towers? We should articulate the truth by pointing out the basic principles in scripture. The Bible gives us a clear lens on history, while also putting man’s grandiose plans in perspective. We should be engaged in taking action against problems of our day, but remember, our most basic need is for a Savior. In the Bible, Babylon is a symbol of the world system marked by “babbling”, but a clear word of truth spoken in love may just be the language someone’s been waiting to hear.

Five Things I Learned as a Soldier

Like most Veterans, I’m occasionally asked about the “military experience” and I’m always amazed at how fresh the memories can be when prompted. Today on Veteran’s Day, I’ve been “prompted”, but instead of old stories, I want to mention 5 life-lessons I value every day that I learned in the Army (other than a love for coffee and weaponry).

1. My limits are usually farther than I think: It’s incredible how much more you can do physically and mentally when needed. Drill instructors helped me to learn that there’s usually “one more mile left” when I think there isn’t.

2. An appreciation for people of various backgrounds: Throughout my enlistment, most of my close friends were of different ethnicities and regions. As a guy coming from a small town, I had a lot to learn, but quickly grew to appreciate the things we had in common, like family stories, personal interests and laughter.

3. There’s a difference between rank and respect: A title or position may come with privilege and authority, but the personal respect of peers and subordinates can only be earned.

4. A “Drive-on” mindset: When the plan breaks down, or the equipment fails, there’s great value in having an “adapt-and-over-come” mentality. Whether it takes Duct Tape, a big hammer, or an alternate route, sometimes we just need to keep “driving on” (and always carry a Swiss Army knife).

5. The strength of Christ in me: Upon arrival at Boot Camp, it was very obvious that I wasn’t at home anymore, but God was faithful every single day. He empowered me in ways I didn’t even know existed and He still does – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13

Thanks to all of you who have served our great nation – Happy Veterans Day!

Does it Really Matter? The Essentials: Part 2-The Flood

Did some guys actually build a massive boat for themselves (and animals) to escape a huge flood? If so, is it relevant now? Let’s take a look: 

The flood described in Genesis is the most sweeping physical event in history. Many of our natural resources and topography can be directly traced to it. It’s an important part of the Biblical narrative, and for our purpose in this post, I want to consider two questions. 

Was it a literal global flood?  

  • Genesis chapters 6-9 tells the story with specific details, such as vessel specifications, dates, timeframe, water height, limiting of animal categories to “kinds”, occupants, food provisions, Noah’s age, sources of the water, and resulting after-effects.
  • If the flood was literal, then we should expect to find evidence on the earth’s surface. The geological record points to a rapidly developed, catastrophic event, which disturbed and re-deposited materials all over the earth (instead of long slow deposits over “millions of years”). For example: 
    1. The Fountains of the Great Deep – In Genesis 7:11 God broke up (literally “ripped apart”) the fountains of the great deep. This sudden global release of a subterranean layer of water would have exploded with incredible heat and pressure. This alone would deliver massive cataclysmic destruction at the points of origin, on the earth’s surface, and final ground elevations. This is exactly what we see with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Ring of Fire, mountain ranges from surface compression, and faults from plate subduction. Here are two links for more details:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/catastrophic-plate-tectonics  

http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/tools/flood-waters.asp

    1. When the water began receding in Genesis chapter 8, it revealed the devastation of the flood. Today we see an abundance of formations which support a mountain-covering-worldwide-flood. For example, fossils of sea creatures high above sea level, rapid burial of plant and animal life, quickly deposited layers of sediment, and much more. One of the more interesting is evidence of two additional Great Lakes left afterwards in the American southwest where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico come together. These two vast bodies of water (breached later at their southwestern edge) could have quickly and easily eroded the Grand Canyon. Here are two links for more details:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/geologic-evidences-part-one

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/wog/grand-canyon 

What difference does the Flood story make now? 

  • Mankind’s sin grieves God’s heart (Genesis 6:6) and has always been a serious issue. It brings God’s wrath, and the flood is referenced in the New Testament as an example (Luke 17:26-30 & II Peter 3:1-13).
  • God is gracious. Gen. 6:8 says, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah’s deliverance was based on God showing Him “unmerited favor” along with his family.
  • God honored His covenants (with Noah and his family-Gen. 6:18) & (with Himself to never flood the Earth again-Gen. 8:21-22). God always keeps his promises…to the letter.
  • Worship is important. Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark was to build an altar and worship (Gen. 8:20).
  • Noah’s faith is a key part of the story, not just ancillary. (He acted on faith and respect for the Lord-Hebrews 11:7). Building the ark took time, and considering the extreme depravity of the culture, following God’s instructions would have brought much ridicule.
  • Rebellion against God is our ongoing core problem (Gen. 6:5 & 8:21). The story starts and ends with God commenting on the condition of hearts. We cannot change ourselves, only He can do that.
  • God’s Word is not just “kind-of-true” or “mostly true”, it’s specifically true.
  • Just as Noah was delivered by God’s grace, we are offered an opportunity to be delivered from sin’s judgment through Christ. He has already suffered the penalty of God’s wrath for us. His redemptive work on the cross provides a way to be saved and have a personal relationship with Him (Rom. 5:1-2, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1). 

The story of Noah and the great flood is often viewed as a children’s lesson, but it’s so much more. It’s a sobering and compelling account of God’s love and provision while evil is dealt with. It’s that same love that invites us to trust Him with our life now by placing our faith in Jesus. I hope you have. If not, I pray that you will. What a story…what a truth! 

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