Of Law and Grace

Sometimes, Christians disagree over the importance of God’s law and his grace in the lives of believers. Some look to the law as God’s unchanging standard for mankind, and some would argue that Christ’s redemptive work has freed us from keeping the law. Others even find it important to keep some of the law while admitting that not all of its principals are still necessary in the life of a believer. What is the purpose of God’s law? Why did he give the law, and why are there some precepts that seem so strange? Has the law been replaced by grace? Is the believer exempt from God’s commandments, or should we live our lives in a manner that is unmistakably Hebrew? These are the questions I hope to address by reflecting on God’s Law and his grace.

Moses and the Decalogue

The Law

While encamped in the desert, at the base of Mount Sinai the newly freed Hebrew were first presented God’s law. God shared the law through his chosen leader, Moses. The law would serve many purposes for the future nation. First God wished to unite them by explaining that it was he who created the universe, he gave their life significance in explaining that all of mankind was made in his image, and they were given purpose in knowing that they and their ancestors were his chosen people. God presented Moses with the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) and over a period of time God expanded his law to Moses. The Law of Moses (as it is often referred) has three main purposes; to provide a special revelation to mankind of God’s holiness, to separate the people of Israel from the rest of mankind, and to demonstrate mankind’s sinfulness and need of a savior.

Much of the law details ceremonial rituals that were mostly for the priesthood (a tribe of Israel that was set aside to care for the tabernacle/temple and the ceremonial relics) and some for the people. These rituals, relics, and even holidays were to remind Israel of where God had brought them from, they explained how to regain a good standing with God, they created a religion to separate Israel from neighboring people, and disclosed the future works of God through the Messiah. These laws include requirements for offerings to God, ceremonies for the priests, instructions for ritual cleanliness and holiness, and convocation of holy ceremonies and celebrations. The ceremonial laws gave a clear depiction of the holiness of God, and revealed his desire for his followers to be different from the rest of mankind.

The law also consists of social law or moral law. Again, these laws were designed to separate the Hebrew from their pagan neighbors. Many of these laws such as the dietary and garment requirements seem strange to us today, but that is because we may not understand the context of which they were written. Many of the oddest laws are not there simply to be a heavy burden but to keep the Hebrew from participating in pagan forms of idolatry and worship. The moral areas of the law also shaped the Hebrew society (not just their religion). In these laws God demands that his people take care of the poor (through practices like gleaning), punish disobedience, live justly with one another, respect human life, and even remain sexually pure.

The third purpose of the law was to be a measuring device for the sinfulness of mankind. The law functions like a mirror, allowing its readers to understand how short we fall from God’s call to holiness. The law represents God’s desires for our lives and how we are to live with him and one another. Despite the knowledge that God is our creator and knows what is best for us, we choose to rebel against his commands just as Adam and Eve did in the garden. We realize by the law that we are not just being held accountable for their crime, but that we ourselves are guilty. It is this revelation of the law that is most beneficial for mankind. It is this knowledge that allows us to see our need for God’s intervention. The law is not evil, it was written by God, but the law condemns each and every one of us. It is in this realization that mankind has the opportunity to understand the importance of God’s grace in his pursuit of those who would love him.

 

The Law In the Bible

Moses first received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai and this is recorded by Moses in Exodus chapter 20. These ten commands are a summary of the 613 commands to come that are found in the Old Testament Law.  Only the Ten Commandments are structured as rules. The rest of the law is spread among four of the five books (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) believed to be penned by Moses. The Ten Commandments were the only section of the law that God presented laws in this fashion. The rest of the law seems to be given on a need to know basis, and as Moses was given the law he wrote it down to pass along to the Hebrew people. This further enforces the law as a guideline to lead mankind to God and not as a requirement for salvation. The law teaches about God’s holiness, mankind’s sinful heart, and God’s plan for redemption.

When Jesus was asked which of the commandments were the most important to keep, he explained that all of the law can be simplified into two commands that are of equal importance; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)” and “… love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).” Jesus explained that these two principals were the basis for all of the law and all of the teachings of God’s prophets.

For the present day Christian the law can sometimes be a topic of heated debate. Some believe  that being grafted into the family of God means we are now required to keep the law, some would go and separate the law into parts that we are still required to keep (like the ten commandments) and others that hold no place (like dietary laws and temple worship). I believe the third option is the one Jesus meant when he explained that he came not to do away with the law but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Paul wrote to Timothy that the law was useful and all of it was inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16).

 

Practical Application

So if the law is useful and yet we are not bound to it; what place does the law have in the Christian’s life? The point of the law was not to provide a means of salvation but to reveal God’s holiness, man’s wickedness, and God’s grace in providing redemption for mankind. The law reveals to us our rebellion against God, and our inability to be holy on our own. There is no other tool necessary for evangelism than the Law of Moses. Before someone can understand their need for a savior, they must realize they are in peril. That is exactly what the law accomplishes (Romans 3:20). The law paints a picture of God’s design for mankind’s redemption. The law explains the need for blood to purify sinfulness (Leviticus 17:11). So when Jesus shows up at the Jordan River, John the Baptist recognizes that he is the sacrificial lamb provided to be our sacrifice and our redemption (John 1:9). It is the law that leads mankind to the realization that we need Jesus’ sacrifice to justify us before God.

Secondly, if the law is pleasing before God than it should be our hearts desire to do what pleases him. But how do we determine which laws are necessary? Does God really care how we trim our beards? What about the laws against eating unclean animals? (Personally, I love to eat bacon and shrimp). I believe we are not required to go through the law and choose what is required and what can be thrown out. The freedom that we have been granted by Christ’s fulfillment of the law has brought us to a new relationship with the law; one where more emphasis is on the purpose of the law (growing closer to God), and less on the details of the law. This is why Jesus summed the law in two statements; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).

 

Grace

God’s grace has been with mankind since the day Adam and Eve first rebelled against God’s command to never eat from The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God could have killed Adam and Eve right then just as he had warned them, but instead he allowed them to live until they died at a later time. Instead of justly killing them, God met their needs and continued to bless them. They had broken the only rule God gave them, and yet he still showed them the grace they did not deserve. Grace is God’s favor and kindness that is undeserved. Later, God would spare Noah and his family from judgment not because they deserved to be saved, but because of God’s grace. And after the world was repopulated, God’s grace led him to choose Abraham as the beginning of God’s people who would bring the ultimate expression of his grace, Jesus Christ. In Jesus the full extent of God’s grace is made manifest. Because of mankind’s sinful heart we have never been able to repair our relationship with God. God’s love for mankind is so great that he sent his son to suffer and die, so that the requirement for our salvation would be met. It is by this act of sacrifice that God has offered us redemption from our sins and he has justified us to a right standing with him. This is not accomplished by any act of our own, only a belief in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection for our salvation. This is God’s gift to mankind, a gift that we do not deserve. Grace.

 

Grace In the Bible

God’s grace is the agent that provides his favor and kindness to the people of Israel throughout their history despite their inability to follow God’s commands. The law, the judges, and the prophets were guardrails to guide Israel to one point in history; the birth of Jesus Christ. The Messiah was the instrument in which God fulfilled his promise of an ultimate blessing on mankind. By sending his son to die for mankind’s sins, God’s grace is offered to all of humanity. Paul wrote in Ephesians that it is “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (1:7) that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. Our forgiveness is the result of the work that Christ accomplished by dying on the Roman cross. There is nothing that we can do to deserve this grace, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not form yourselves, it is the gift of God- Not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8).” It is God’s unmerited blessing that has redeemed us, justified us, is sanctifying us, and one day will glorify us.

 

Practical Application

God’s grace is the greatest gift he can give mankind. From our very beginning we have rebelled against his plan for us, but still he persists to pursue us. It is only his determination to make a way for our redemption that we have the ability to come to him. And after this we continually renew our desire to be pleasing before him. We can never become righteous by our own works, but out of thankfulness we should pursue lives that are pleasing to our redeemer. We cannot do this by following rules, that is why the law does not save, we can only do this through gratitude for God’s grace. We need to be reminded daily that we enjoy God’s unmerited favor.

 

God’s law and his grace were undeserved gifts to mankind. We are sinful and rebellious creatures that are underserving of our benevolent God. Without his intervention we hide from our sinfulness and would be lost to hiding in darkness. But God in his grace desired something greater for us, so he sent the light of the law to humanity. So that darkness would be evident. But the law was just a glimpse of what was to come in the person of Jesus. God’s grace has shown on man, and although we are undeserving God has chosen to redeem us.

Advertisements

Great Is His Faithfulness

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...

“Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26
Recently our student ministry held our annual discipleship weekend. We had an amazing time worshiping together, but it our time together in small groups always leave the greatest impact. Our speaker taught about our place in the world, and our influence on those around us. During one of our services he taught from the book of Jeremiah (Chapter 29, check it out!). In chapter 29 of Jeremiah’s writings we learn that God informs the people they will spend 70 years of bondage in Babylon. He is going to leave them there and they are to continue their lives. Jeremiah writes that it is God’s will that they people live among the Babylonians.

This news was no doubt devastating to the children of Israel, who believed God would save them from such a fate. The prophet’s message was most assuredly one that was not well received. In fact, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to assure them there would be false prophets who would try to tell them differently. But it was God’s will they live in bondage because of their rebellion. This is a lesson for the believer to take to heart. When we choose to rebel against God, his response is to give us over to what we want. He allows us to run away. We have moral free will. If I chose to follow the temptations of this world instead of the promises of God, he will allow me to live in the world and face the world’s consequences.

In our small group that evening, I shared from the book of Lamentations. This is another writing of Jeremiah’s… I remember the first time I read the book of Lamentations to a group of believers. I did not tell them it was from the Bible, only that it was a writing about God. When you read Jeremiah’s frustration and anger toward what God has allowed… well, let’s just say the group I read it to were not happy with the writer. They felt he must have been an atheist who was mocking God. They were all very surprised when I had them turn to the book of Lamentations and asked one of them to read the scripture I had just read.
Jeremiah had witnessed the sacking of Jerusalem and the fall of his beloved nation. He was left in total despair and his feelings of anguish are apparent in his writing.
But in the writing of Lamentations we can find great assurance of God’s mercy and faithfulness! The world would say Jeremiah had been abandoned by God, but he realized Israel had long abandoned God. God was working these terrible circumstances to bring Israel back to him. It was not that God had abandoned them. God was showing them what life without him would be like. God was providing them the opportunity to experience life separate from him. Jeremiah’s words in the scripture I quoted above are words to keep close to our hearts in our trials and difficult times. When we feel that God has abandoned us we should remind ourselves, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

You Can Call Upon The Lord

 

I love you, O Lord , my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord , who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalms 18:1-3

 

 

What a great excerpt of scripture to keep in our hearts. Can you imagine how differently we would perceive our daily lives if we viewed them through the lens of these verses? How might our attitudes change? How might we appear to the world around us? What would they think? Would it draw them to us? Would it draw them to Christ?

 

This is believed to have been written by David at the time the Lord rescued him from Saul and all of David’s enemies. It is the beginning of an ancient song David penned as a result of God’s grace on his life.

 

I believe we can all look back over our lives at the most difficult times, the times God has brought us through, and praise him for his faithfulness as our strength, as our deliverer, our fortress, our refuge, our shield, and our place of safety. To those who acknowledge the Lord’s involvement in our lives… he is overwhelming! He strengthens us through our weakness, he give us sound footing when our world crumbles, he protects us when the enemy is at the door, he whisks us away from danger, he is constant when everything else is changing, he is our shelter from the storms, his defenses are impenetrable, and for all of this he is more than worthy of our praise.

 

I pray your days have been blessed by this wisdom from God’s Word.

 

Who Wants To Watch Sheep?

who let you in?

who let you in? (Photo credit: van Ort)

So I know it has been a while since my last blog update. In fact, my last post was on December 27th! That was almost a month away. My last semester at my local community college ended for me just before Christmas, and because all of the programs I am considering for my bachelor’s degree are cohorts they do not begin until next fall. For the past month, I have had a lot of free time on my hands.

I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek. With a full-time job, a family of four and everything else I keep myself busy with my life has continued to be full of activity through my break. I have been able to enjoy some time with my wife and girls. I have done some reading, and my pursuit of knowing God through his word has not slowed. I just haven’t shared anything with you.

And now we get on with it.

 

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Psalms 27:14

 

 I have spent much time lately thinking about what I feel God is calling me to do with my life. I accepted his call into ministry many years ago, but have struggled to “break” my way in. I work with students at my church, and I believe they are not only my passion but my calling. I love spending time with middle school age students (yes, God has blessed me with the ability to over look the smell). I remember middle school being a tough time in my childhood, and I desperately wanted someone to give me the attention acceptance I was looking for. I hate to hear stories about students who feel alone and are falling way, and I can not help but find that kid sitting by himself and introduce him to my pose’ of boys.

Every week I look forward to spending time with these young men and women. Aside from time with my family, it is one of the highlights of my week. But I often struggle with my desires to be involved in their lives and my responsibilities at home and at work. It often seems there are not enough hours in my day to do all that I want to accomplish. I know… you have never felt like that. Maybe not the middle school part (I do understand they smell, it just doesn’t bother me), but you struggle to find time to be a good husband/wife, father/mother, employee, mentor, or student. It is tough. This struggle has often brought me to a place of brokenness.

I have had one of those times lately, and my reading of God’s word led me to Moses.

 

The Book of the Exodus tells about the Hebrew children after they find themselves enslaved by the Egyptians. If you read your Bible regularly you might be familiar of the story of Moses. But in the small chance that you stumbled upon this blog and are unfamiliar, allow me to give you the short version. The Hebrew grew in number and the Egyptians became fearful of a revolt. So the Pharaoh (king) restricted the number of children the Hebrew families could have (not unlike China is doing today). Only the Pharaoh wanted all newborn boys to be slain. Many families attempted to hid their children. One such family was the family of Moses.

However the risk became grave and his mother decided to place him in a basket and let it flow down the river. She prayed that the child would find a safe home. The little guy drifted right to the Pharaoh’s daughter’s bathing area. She took him into her home and allowed his birth mother to nurse him. Moses, as she named him, grew in the Pharaoh’s palace.

After Moses had grown, he felt compassion for his people. He hated to see them mistreated by the Egyptians. And one day he saw an Egyptian going too far, and Moses in his anger killed the Egyptian. Moses knew that his high stature would not spare him from his fate, so he fled Egypt.

Moses came to a family of shepherds and they accepted him into their family. He would go on to marry a woman from the shepherd family. So Moses found himself not in the palace of Pharaoh, but in the fields of Reuel.

 

This week I was thinking about Moses time as a shepherd of Reuel’s flock. How meaningless his life must have seemed. Moses did not know that God had called him to free the Egyptians. He was not in the desert waiting further instruction. As he stared over the fields and watched the animals graze, he must have been very, very bored. I can not imagine spending four years as a shepherd… And Moses spent forty! I wonder how much patience he gained while herding the sheep of Reuel? I wonder if that is why God directed his life in that direction…

Of course I realize I am projecting my emotions on the matter on to Moses. Moses may have been perfectly at peace in the fields with the sheep. We of course know this prepared him for his time in the wilderness with the Israelites. I pray that I can stay positive about my little time in the desert as I wait on the Lord’s calling to be made known.

I mean, it could be worse… He could have me in a field watching sheep.

Christmas, Powered by the Holy Spirit

dove-object-black2

dove-object-black2 (Photo credit: knowhimonline)

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

We are considering taking down our Christmas decorations today or tomorrow, all of the gifts are open and lying around the house, and leftovers are chilling in the fridge. Today is December 27th and Christmas is over. It is always a whirl wind, that began in November. Every year we try to keep the meaning of the celebration in our hearts, but our attention is often loss to our societies Christmas traditions.

The opening to Matthew’s Gospel gets to the point quickly. Jesus was not just another teacher of the law, he wasn’t a charismatic speaker (in fact, many of his sermons ran people off), nor was he just a prophet who performed many miracles. Matthew informs us that Jesus came to earth not by the consummation of Mary and Joseph’s marriage, but by the work of the Holy Spirit

Christmas lights 2010

Christmas lights 2010 Source wikipedia.org

This may have seemed odd to those around Mary and Joseph. I would imagine few believed them; after all, it took a visit from an angel for Joseph to believe. But Jesus’ miraculous conception is just as important to his ministry’s work as his eventual death on the cross. Had Jesus been born the son of Joseph and not of God, his death would not have been the sacrifice that redeemed mankind from our rebellion. Jesus’ conception MUST be the direct work of God or he would have been born into the same debt if rebellion we all are. His very flesh would have been tainted by the blemishes caused by sin.

Jesus’ carnal body was the result of God’s work. In fact, the entire process of salvation has and must be orchestrated by God. We in our sinful state are so far from God that without his intervention we would stay lost in our sins. But God’s love for us is so great he sent his Son to earth by the consummation of humanity and the Holy Spirit to be light in the darkness. Jesus came to light the way for mankind’s hearts to God. He came so that we might know God as our father.

Christmas may be over, but for those of us who are disciples of Jesus celebrate God’s plan of salvation all year. Without the miracle of his birth his death on the cross would not have resulted in his resurrection, and without the resurrection of Jesus we would still be lost in our sins.

It Is Said…

20121223-094541.jpg

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’ ”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the L ord your God and serve only him.’ ”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the L ord your God.’ ”

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Luke 4:1-13

In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent forty days being tempted in the wilderness. Luke says that the Spirit leads Jesus to this confrontation beyond the Jordan River.

There are a few things that intrigue me about this passage of scripture. But what I wonder most are the three Hebrew texts that Jesus quotes during his temptation.

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” Luke 4:4 ESV

And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” Luke 4:8 ESV

The first thing I learn from this account is that Jesus’ response to temptation is found in scripture. He doesn’t try to argue with the devil, he exposes the deceiver’s lies with truth. Jesus had been fasting for FORTY days in preparation of the next three years Satan says why don’t you make bread from these rocks. Often when we set out to follow God we are faced with opposition and temptation. Satan was trying to step in the way of Jesus’ ministry. Then he offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would only bow and worship him. Lastly, Satan instructs Jesus to challenge God’s authority and test him by throwing himself from the top of Jerusalem’s temple.

In this very strange journey from the desert, to the top of the world, to the top of the Temple; Jesus does not waver in his devotion to God the Father.

When I am tempted, I do not always turn to scripture first. But it was the response of the Son of God. He tries no vain attempts to argue with Satan. He simples states truth. Next time you find yourself tempted instead of relying on your own abilities looked to God’s Word for strength.

Freed Slaves

Chain Link

Chain Link (Photo credit: small world)

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.

                                                            Romans 1:1  

Paul begins his greeting to the Church in Rome with his credentials. In this description he includes the label “bondservant”. The significance of the word is that it describes a slave who has paid off his debts, his required servitude is complete, and they choose to stay a servant of his master rather than being free. Of course a bondservant enjoys a new level of freedom that was not available previously.  

Paul uses this word to describe his credentials as a follower of Christ we can learn a great deal about the attitude necessary for a disciple of Jesus. Paul understood himself to be a volunteer servant for God. Like a bondservant, he understands that his “master” can provide a better life than he can achieve on his own. Because of this, his love for God is greater than his love for self. 

It is important that we understand our service for God to be that of a bondservant. We are free to go, but why would we!? The life that Jesus offers is one filled with purpose and love. This may look different for each of us. God will not force me to do anything; only offer my participation in his plan. He doesn’t need me to complete his will, but he graciously includes me despite my unworthiness of such a calling. Only God knows what the abundant life will look like for me. Only he knows where my fulfillment will come from.  

Paul chose to view his life as that of a freed slave who chooses to continue serving his master. God offers us this position as well. We may choose to be a slave of sin, or we may choose to be freed from sin and the servant of our creator. Paul’s choices led him down a difficult path that ultimately led to his execution. But I believe Paul’s life was fulfilled in his desire to spread the Gospel and reach those who seemed unreachable. He considered serving God in prison more fulfilling than living life free without meaning. 

I pray that I would seek God’s direction in my life, and freely give my liberty to him so that I may live a fulfilled life, to count his work as greater than my life.

Thanksgiving: Prosperity

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

The harvest feast of 1621 is known as the first Thanksgiving of the Plymouth Colony.  The popular account ends assuring us that the Pilgrims went on to live lives of prosperity after that year. However, that is not true. The Pilgrims did enjoy a feast and a celebration for three days with their new friends, but their bellies were only full for a few days. In fact, the winter of 1621 was one of the leanest they suffered. 

The winter of 1623 was a miracle straight from God. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony lived through the winter with only a ration of five kernels of corn a day with no deaths.  After that winter the colony was expanded by additional settlers from England. With the increase of mouths to feed they would need twice the harvest as the previous year. How were they to feed so many when they had barely fed everyone the winter before? 

The problem was found in their system of economy. The Pilgrims’ had adopted a system from their original contract with their merchant-sponsors in London that called for everything produced by the colony to go into a common store and each member was entitled to their share. If you worked six days a week you received the same “earnings” as someone who worked four. Obviously, this system was seen as unfair (despite being designed to be fair).

The new settlers only added to the Pilgrims’ frustrations. These new comers lacked the Pilgrims’ work ethic.  Many of them came straight from the debtors’ prisons in England.  The newcomers were lazy and complained about their conditions. They grumbled that they wanted more privileges, more food, and less work.  The moral of the colony was plummeting. Something had to be done.

Governor William Bradford sought the answers to the colonies plight in the pages of his Bible.  He found his answer in 2 Thessalonians 3:10.  “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  

Bradford quickly went to work and assigned the single men to live with Pilgrim families.  He then divided up the common fields and gave families individual rights to their own tracts.  The corn grown on each family’s tract was for the family’s private use. If they produced more than they could consume they were able to sell or trade it for something they needed or desired. 

At first the slackers tested the Pilgrims. Refusing to work or adhere to Bradford’s audacious rules. But only a few days passed before they were convinced and went to work for the families of Plymouth. 

The colony flourished under their new capitalist society. The Pilgrims found they now had too much food and opened trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. They paid off their debts and their success started the “Great Puritan Migration.” Plymouth became that shinning city on a hill that William Brewsterbelieved it could be. And today we celebrate for the very same reasons those early settlers celebrated.

Today we thank God for his guidance and protection in our lives. We praise him for the journey that we have been on and for how he has kept us during the hard times. We thank him for when he has changed our course for our own protection, and for the new opportunities that he has provided. Today we thank God for his work throughout history. How he has consistently used men and women to blaze a new trail, and teach us about love and compassion. We thank him for this nation, those who serve it, those who cherish it, and those who protect it. But most of all today, on this Thanksgiving Day, we thank him for that ultimate sacrifice that was made so that all men could know him not only as the Creator but as our Father.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

Thanksgiving Posts

Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

Thanksgiving: New Beginnings

Thanksgiving: Promised Hope

Thanksgiving: When LIfe’s Difficult

Thanksgiving: When Life’s Difficult

Squanto

Squanto (Photo credit: *cHARLIe 2112(^:*)

In 1604 a young, Native American named Squanto and four others were taken from their tribe and sent over seas to England. Those who took them planned to teach them English and then return to America with them as guides. After nine years, Squanto was returned to his homeland and his people. But he was kidnapped again and taken to Spain to be sold as a slave. Squanto escaped and made his way back to England. In 1620, Squanto joined a passage back to New England. Fifteen years had passed and Squanto longed for his homeland and family. When he arrived in his village it was empty.  The only remnants of his people were bones and skulls. His village has suffered a vicious disease.  Squanto sought shelter with Massasoit, the chief of a neighboring tribe. And it was there that he mourned his people for six months. 

English: Squanto or Tisquantum teaching the Pl...

English: Squanto or Tisquantum teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant corn with fish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day, Squanto was requested to help some English settlers who had colonized the tribal lands of his people. They were described as kind and peaceful people, with little hope of surviving. The settlers had little food and even less knowledge of farming in the strange climate of New England. Squanto, Chief Massasoit, and all sixty warriors from his tribe visited the Plymouth Colony. Squanto helped interpret for the chief and aided in establishing a treaty between the two groups. When Chief Massasoit and his warriors returned to their village, Squanto stayed behind to help the settlers. They were closely approaching the end of the corn planting season, and Squanto knew if they did not get to work immediately the colony would meet the same fate as his own people. Squanto taught the settlers how to survive, plant corn and pumpkin, to catch eels and fish, stalk deer, and how to find herbs for food and medicine.

The Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony shared with Squanto the Good News of Jesus Christ. Squanto found his life’s purpose within the passages that told the story of Joseph. How he was sold into slavery, imprisoned, and then later made second in command of Egypt, just under Pharaoh. Squanto’s life’s purpose could be found in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Suddenly, years of pain and meaningless disappeared and Squanto began to see how God could take the evil things that men do and bring good out of it. Had Squanto never been taken, he would have never learned English.  Had he not been taken again the second time, he would have perished with the rest of his village.  Had the settlers not sought help from Massasoit when they did they would have missed the window for planting the corn harvest. Squanto chose to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and as the author of his life’s story.   

The spring following Squanto’s help to the settlers was their first harvest banquet where they praised God and their new friends for their harvest. But that harvest was not that great. It was not the abundant harvest that would come a few years later. It was not the harvest that marked the colonies’ prosperous times. That celebration was a few more years away.

Much of Squanto’s life had been stolen from him. He spent years as the property of another individual. Squanto lost everything. His family was dead, and he had very little to live for. But he found hope in a similar tale to his own. What he learned of Joseph’s life mirrored his own. He saw how Joseph had been unjustly imprisoned and forgotten. But he saw every agonizing detail had been with the purpose of saving a people. Squanto found solace from his depression in knowing that his life had meaning. He began to understand how the pieces fit together and this knowledge gave him a new drive in life.

Sometimes it is hard to see past our hardships. Maybe this year has been difficult for you and you are having a hard time mustering up a thankful heart for tomorrow’s celebration of Thanksgiving. Take a moment and ponder on the stories of Squanto and Joseph. Our lives often contain low points, but low points simply separate the high points.

This Thanksgiving, we should remember that God has a plan that he put into motion before Adam and Eve even sinned. He has provided us with everything that we need to experience life o the fullest. Most of the time there is only one person in the way of us enjoying that abundant life, us. So we should be thankful for the difficult times this past year because we know that God has plans for those hurts. We know God never wastes a hurt.

 

Thanksgiving Posts

Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

Thanksgiving: New Beginnings

Thanksgiving: Promised Hope

Thanksgiving: Prosperity

Thanksgiving: Promised Hope

Winter wilderness 2

When they Pilgrims set foot on the beach of their new home they broke out in praise to God once again. They were thankful for a fairly uneventful passage, for God’s guidance to the cape, and for the new charter they had ratified. So far it appeared they had made the right decision in leaving the old world.

In his journal, William Bradford wrote this about the Pilgrim’s landing; “They fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.  And no marvel if they were thus joyful.”

In spite of their enthusiasm, the Pilgrims faced many woes that first winter. The delays in their departure cost them weeks of clear weather that would have allowed them to begin their colony. What they found inland was a cold, barren, desolate wilderness with no shelter.  One half of the colonists died that first winter, including Governor John Carver.  To succeed Carver, William Bradford was chosen.  However, things looked grim for the Pilgrims of Plymouth. 

On the last Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America as reminder of all that we have to be thankful for. The Pilgrims of Plymouth would go through many days of anguish before they could celebrate their days of feasting that we model our celebrations after.  

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we sit high on the mountain, and sometimes we look up from the valley unsure if we will ever make the climb. My pastor often says that you are either going through a storm, coming out of a storm, or nearing a storm in your life. This is true. But for those who believe in Christ we have something to be thankful for even during the hardest of times. True, you may be thankful for your family, friends, your job, and other relationships or belongings that you posses. But all of those things fail us at times. We might have to deal with losing our family, our friends may move, and our job… well many of you may be dealing with a loss of work right now in your life. This life is temporary, and thankfully so are its storms. 

English: Minnesota Snow Storm

English: Minnesota Snow Storm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pilgrim’s faced their new life with a faith in God that would rival most church members today. This Thanksgiving don’t forget to be thankful for the storms that he has brought you through. Just as he did for the Pilgrims of Plymouth, he has a plan for you. And although he does not want you to go through the hard times, they are part of life on this earth. One day, in eternity, those storms will seem to have been pretty small. If you are in the middle of a particularly trying storm that might seem difficult to comprehend. It may even make you angry. But this life is not all there is, and we have much to anticipate in the next.

 

Thanksgiving Posts

Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

Thanksgiving: New Beginnings

Thanksgiving: When LIfe’s Difficult

Thanksgiving: Prosperity

%d bloggers like this: