Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in a Watching World

It’s Thanksgiving Day and I have much for which to be thankful to the ultimate Giver …of every good and perfect gift that comes down from above… (James 1: 17).  This past year, God has taught me more about Himself--and, about myself.  How rich His grace and mercy are toward me; and, how prone I am to wander from His ways.  God continues to work in our marriage again this year, using trials and His Word to refine us individually and help us surrender to His love, the ultimate source of our love for each other.  We have seen God work in the lives of our family and within their homes.  Finally, we have grieved with several dear friends and family members, and we are asking God to comfort them from the sting of loss. 

In both the blessings and trials this year, I have become more aware of the spiritual warfare evidenced in my own life and in world events.  Multiple scandals, mismanagement of tax dollars, and deception by leadership in Washington are daily news.  I pray that our president and all of our leaders will submit to biblical authority and that moral clarity and ethics would guide them.  But, I also ask God’s Spirit to reprove and correct me through His Word when the kingdom within my own mind becomes inflamed with pride and rebellion.  

I ask why our elected officials cannot restore authority and integrity to the function of our nation’s borders.  But I must remember to guard the borders of my own life as the Spirit bids me not to …love the things of this world [system of thought]…for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2: 16).  While I pray for justice, calmness, and respect for the rule of law among rioters and looters in Ferguson and other cities, I must ask God to keep me in perfect peace and my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26: 3).  When I am frustrated by a lack of moral clarity in our leadership and the actions that undermine the foundation of marriage, diminish the value of human life, disregard family values, and derail our educational system, I must ask what I can do personally to uphold these institutions and values.

I am concerned about the advance of power hungry tyrants and terrorists who grow increasingly bold where America has withdrawn from providing strong leadership.  And, I am even more concerned that many Americans view our nation as the aggressor rather than an agency that has defended freedom at great cost against numerous attempts by tyrants to dominate whole continents.  Rather than join the angry voices on either side of a deeply divided America today, may I reexamine why I think and believe as I do in the light of God’s truth.  For history records that the Puritans valued so much the freedom to follow God’s truth and to worship Him freely that they placed their lives in His care as they set out to cross the ocean and established communities governed by God’s principles.

John Winthrop, Puritan Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” aboard the Arbella, in 1620.  According to an introduction to the sermon by John Beardsley, charter member of the Winthrop Society, Winthrop’s intent was to prepare the people for planting a new society in a perilous environment, but his practical wisdom is timeless.  Beardsley adds, In an age not long past, when the Puritan founders were still respected by the educational establishment, this was required reading in many courses of American history and literature

Consider how the following excerpt from Winthrop’s sermon would challenge his Puritan community to unity of purpose and love for one another:

For this end, we must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities for the supply of others' necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as His own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth then formerly we have been acquainted with.

Winthrop’s vision for the Puritan community under his governorship reflects his practical wisdom which is timeless in its warning to “Post-Christian America:”

For we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for Gods sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going…

Prayer:  Father God, on this Thanksgiving, revive within me a thankful heart for all You have done.  Help me to remember that I was once an alien to whom You granted citizenship within the “new nation” that you are building.  A nation whose citizens trust in the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus; a nation that You want to be like a ‘shining city on a hill.’  Through Your indwelling Spirit, help me to read and heed Your Word with willing joy.  Then, may Your love move me to live daily in such a way as not to dim the welcoming light of Your Truth that is desperately needed by all men and women.  Particularly, help me not to offend others unnecessarily when we disagree on issues of our day—issues that, while deserving a voice of moral clarity, must also be seen as tremors from the emergence of the Eternal Kingdom for which You are even now preparing the present world.   Yes, Thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Amen.

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