Cosmological and Anthropological Arguments For The Existence of God

Introduction
The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with these words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible does not begin by arguing for the reality of God, but assumes His existence. The people of Israel accepted the truth of an eternal God, so the biblical authors rarely spent time dealing with an argument for His existence. However, today in our humanistic society it is often necessary to begin explaining the gospel by establishing a foundation with an argument for God’s existence. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs believers to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” For the believer it is good to have an understanding of the arguments for God’s existence. It is important to note that we cannot prove God’s existence, but we can make a good argument that is supported by both scripture and reason. For this paper we will look at the Cosmological and the Anthropological arguments for God’s existence, and how they explain the necessity of a greater being.

Part One
The Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument for God’s existence is an ancient philosophy that has been contemplated for centuries. The argument attempts to prove God’s existence by observation of the world around us. It begins with the acknowledgement that in order for things to exist they must have a beginning and all things with a beginning must have a cause. Today it is accepted by many within the scientific community that the universe must have had a beginning. When we peer into the reaches of space it is evident that the universe is expanding and this means everything is moving away from a single point in time and space, that point was the beginning. If the universe had a beginning, it had a cause. It is rational to determine that if the universe had a cause that cause must either be a something or someone. However, further scrutiny will reveal that the cause cannot be a something or you are simply adding to the chain of events and that something would require a cause. This is best illustrated in the example of a tree. A tree is a plant that comes from a seed, and that seed is produced by a tree. To get a tree you must have a seed and to get a seed you must have a tree. However, we know this sequence must be finite. At some point trees came into existence and the series started, a series by definition has a beginning and end. So the universe had a first cause, and that first cause must be an infinite, eternal, and powerful someone who exists outside of our space and time otherwise that someone would just be another cause demanding a cause.

A second aspect of the cosmological argument is a bit more complicated and becomes very philosophical, but it is very powerful because it not only explains that God created the universe but that He must also be causing it to continue to exist. Going back to the concept that things exist, we must further analyze what it means for something to exist. If I described a creature to you that had the body of a woman but instead of legs the creature had a tail like a fish, you would likely guess that I was describing a mermaid, however mermaids do not exist. The fact they are definable does not grant mermaids existence.

Let’s try another example but with something that can exist. If I were to describe a two-dimensional shape, constructed of line segments connecting three points, that are not in a straight line; I have rightly described a triangle. But that description does not require the triangle to exist. Triangles by nature do not require existence; triangles are actually caused to exist by something else that already exists. And that thing would require something to make it exist, and so on and so on. Just as the cosmological argument concludes there must be a beginning and therefore a cause, so it demands a source that continues to cause things to exist. And in order to end the loop, that cause must be without cause. Meaning its existence cannot be determined by the existence of something else. It must exist to give existence to everything else. So not only did the universe require a cause to begin, but it requires a cause to continue being. That thing would be existence itself, it would always exist, it would have no beginnings and no cause, and to be that it must be outside of the world as we know it. The next question is, does the God of the Bible fit that description?

Biblical Foundation
The purpose of world religions is to provide man a purpose in life. Christianity is different from all the world religions because it goes beyond our necessity for purpose and explains the cause of our existence as well as our purpose. No other religion, other than Judaism (which God used to provide the messiah of Christianity) and Christianity, bothers to provide a detailed account of the history of the universe and mankind. The Old Testament account of Genesis begins with God’s creation of the universe. He created time and space, and filled them with the earth, the sun, moon, and the stars. The God of Christianity is no small God who was unhappy with the world around Him and reshaped it to his liking. No, the God of Christianity spoke and created the entire universe from nothing.

One of the Hebrew poems attributed to Israel’s King David says in Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The God of the Bible claims to have displayed his glory in the mysteries of the universe. Another of the psalms reads, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2).” There is no mistake, the Bible claims God to have existed eternally and in order for that to be He must be without cause.

In fact, one of the writers of the New Testament, Paul, wrote in his letter to the Romans that, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” Paul was saying that what we cannot see in this life is revealed to us in what we can see. That for the universe to come into being and to continue, it must have been caused by a great and mighty God. The Bible ends with the book of John’s revelation of Jesus Christ. In this letter to the church, John (one of Jesus’ disciples and closest friends) describes a scene in heaven where a multitude can be seen worshiping God and declaring, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being (Revelation 4:11).” No other religion declares their deity to be so powerful to be the very existence of the universe. Such a claim would demand the most amazing feats such as changing the very molecular composition of water into wine, defying the physical laws of gravity to walk on water, and raising the dead to life. No other “god” has claimed to be so powerful and proven themselves to be true. Only the God of Christianity can be our Cause.

Practical Application
What does the existence of a Creator who simply spoke the universe into existence and who alone causes all things to exist mean for mankind? If the universe had a beginning, than the universe had a cause, and that cause must exist outside of our space and time. Our response to this truth is to acknowledge that we are not alone. There is something greater than mankind, and it doesn’t come from the stars, but beyond them. Once we have come to belief in a creator, scrutiny of the Christian bible will further reveal the cause as not only our creator, but our God. We are the workmanship of a God who has chosen to pursue us, and if He has chosen to reach out to us our response should be to pursue Him. Our response should be complete devotion and worship.

Part Two

Anthropological Argument
The second argument for the existence of God that we are going to explore is the Anthropological argument. Anthropology is the study of mankind, and the subject of this argument are the qualities that separates us from other forms of life. We must ask ourselves why we are different from the rest of our planets inhabitants. Are we, as evolutionists propose, simply the highest evolved animal on our planet? Or is it possible that we are the dominant species because we are in fact different from the animals? This question deals with who we are and how we relate to God. Humanity differs from earth’s other occupants because we are self-aware, we think rationally, and we are imaginative. No other species on earth displays our level of intelligence, creativity, and emotion. So this raises the question, are we the dominant form of life because we possess these qualities? Or do we possess them because we were created to be dominant? How could mankind have evolved into a rational, creative, and emotional being from the chaotic process of microbe to man evolution?

One aspect of the anthropological argument reveals that mankind is so widely different from our world because our creation was different from that of the rest of the universe. We were created in the image of God, and because of this we have been given certain attributes that separates us from all other forms of life. We were not made in God’s likeness in appearance, for scripture tells us that God is spirit and we should not infer that God’s physical appearance is that of a man’s. It is our non-physical attributes that were granted to us by being made in the image of our Creator. Our intelligence, imagination, emotion, creativity, and morality are many of the attributes of God that He has blessed us with.

A second aspect of the Anthropological argument demonstrates that it is impossible for mankind to be a personal beings made from an impersonal universe. We are beings that desire to be free, we long for intimacy, we acknowledge morality, and we seek significance. This is what it means to be human. But this world does not feed our desires, and they cannot come from the universe. Allow me to explain, we hunger for food and thirst for drink. The universe in which we live includes an environment that supplies the necessities to satisfy these desires. But our environment is not personal; it is not rational, loving, moral, or purposeful. Our environment does not meet these needs. They are only met by a personal, rational, loving, moral, and significant Creator. It is these desires that lead us to the truth that satisfaction can only be found in God. And again we must ask ourselves, does the God of the Bible satisfy this argument.

Biblical Foundation
To find why mankind differs so greatly from the animals that we co-populate the earth with, we must look no further than the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Genesis 1:27 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” It is this belief that mankind was created by his creator to be different that best explains why we are the dominant species and why there is no competition from other animals. In the account of creation we see that God gave man many of his attributes and placed him in a position of dominance over the animals. Also in the Genesis account we see how God satisfies man’s desires. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” This is indication that in God’s perfect creation (before man’s rebellion and his fall from paradise) man’s environment and God himself were able to meet all of man’s desires. Man is a foreign creature that differs greatly from all other life in his environment. Those attributes that separate us also lead us to question if we have a creator. It is these qualities and their existence in man alone that argue for a creator who modeled man after himself.

Practical Application
The anthropological argument is convincing in that humanity has always searched for other intelligent, emotional, and hopefully moral beings. The thought that we could be one of a kind seems foreign to us. Man’s desire for such a relationship is further proof of the existence of a creator who is seeking to have a relationship with his creation. Who we are, how we think, how we love, and how we create are all reflections of a personal God who is looking to have a personal relationship with us. If this creator has reached out to us our response must be to run to Him. It is clear that this is what we were created for.

Conclusion
It is true that we cannot prove the existence of God, but the cosmological argument provides us with very convincing evidence that He exists. God has chosen to reveal himself in a way that requires faith but He has provided many “proofs” of his existence; such as the expanding of the universe, the need for the universe to have a cause, the miracle of life itself, His involvement in the lives of the Israelites, in the life of Jesus our Messiah, and the creation and divine protection of His Church. Often times people ask for proof in God outside of the text of the Bible, and both the cosmological and an anthropological arguments provide a great deal of reason to the discussion.

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Summary of the Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is one of the greatest ancient narratives known today, and focuses much of the story on one Jewish family during Israel‘s time of the judges. This is after the Joshua’s conquest of God‘s promised land, and before the nation demanded a king. When The nation would begin to fall away from God’s desire for them, He would send a judge to put them back on course. Important themes and events of The Book of Ruth include God’s sovereignty over Israel and the Messiah’s ancestry, application of God’s commands in the Law and how they can positively impact lives and the nation, and that God’s redemptive plan includes the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Harbin 209).

The Book of Ruth begins with the family of Elimelek, Naomi, and their two sons leaving Bethlehem in Judah to live in Moab during a famine. After Elimelek dies in Moab, their two sons marry Moabite women. One of the brides is named Ruth. After they had lived together for about ten years both of the sons die, leaving Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws. Naomi hears the Lord has provided food for her home and plans to leave Moab. She offers for her daughters-in-law to return to their families, but Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi and states she has accepted Naomi’s God as her own. Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem at the time of the harvest and Ruth proposes she will pick through the leftover grains in a nearby field. This was in accordance with the Law given by the Jewish prophet Moses as a means to feed the poor and starving. The field belongs to a relative of Elimelech, Boaz. He notices Ruth and her to dedication to her mother-in-law and makes sure she is able to collect all that she is capable of carrying. When Ruth tells Naomi where she acquired all the grain Naomi realizes Boaz is an eligible kinsman redeemer, and plots a plan for Naomi to ask Boaz to marry her. God’s Law to the Jews included a means to keep family land from changing hands to a new owner. A close relative was allowed to take the land for the deceased. The Law also allowed for a close relative who is not married to take as his wife the widow of his relative in order to provide children for the deceased lineage. There was one redeemer, who was more closely related to Elimelech, but he refused to take Ruth because she was a Moabite, and Boaz redeems both the property and Ruth. Ruth and Boaz have a child named Obed who is the grandfather of Israel’s King David. This means Ruth, a Moabite, is an ancestor to Jesus the Messiah (Harbin 210).

We should not confuse the Book of Ruth to be an allegory of God’s love for Israel or the Church. The events in the Book of Ruth took place, and they are recorded so that we may better understand God’s ability to create an outcome. Make no mistake, God would fulfill his promise of a Messiah and he would orchestrate history to provide a lineage for mankind’s savior. This Old Testament gem has been preserved so that we might marvel at God’s faithfulness through history.

 

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.

 

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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Richard Warren, among 10 passengers in the lan...

Richard Warren, among 10 passengers in the landing party, when the Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod, November 11, 1620 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pilgrims were contracted into the governance of the Virginia Charter by signature when they chose to journey to America. Because the Pilgrims planned to settle in Cape Cod instead of the colony of Jamestown the Virginia Charter could not govern them. They believed God was guiding them to what would later be known as Plymouth (See Thanksgiving: Closed Doors and a Change of Direction). Elder William Brewster called a meeting with the Pilgrim leaders and explained that without a charter of their own there would be no laws to govern and no one to enforce decency.  Some on the ship had already heard others boasting of their freedoms to do whatever they willed once on land.  The Pilgrim leaders agreed that without an established civil government with a firm Christian base, they would soon have sedition and lawlessness.  There was a call to prayer for God’s guidance in the creation of a new charter.  William Bradford declared that he believed God had led them away from Virginia just for this very reason.  Bradford believed God wanted all men to see what He could do with a people who totally relied on Him for everything including their government. 

William Brewster quoted “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).  They recalled what their pastor in Holland had taught them about the governing of the early church. 

Bradford declared, “The Lord Jesus is King of His Church and holds all power in haven and earth.  Christ the Lord gives each Christian the power of self-government.  Christians then elect representatives, or elders, from among themselves to serve them and be examples to them.”  

Page from William Bradford's Of Plimoth Planta...Thus the Mayflower Compact was written and the members of the Plymouth Colony chose to relinquish their individual independence, and live as a covenanted people. The Mayflower Compact is one of the pillars of American constitutional government. This is the first time in recorded history that free and equal men voluntarily covenanted together to create their own civil government.  Along with the ratification of the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims elected John Carver as their first governor.

The Pilgrims were blessed with great leaders who sought to serve God first, their families second, and each other third. Their story inspires me to be a better man. The choices they made while still on the Mayflower have influenced America for nearly four hundred years. They chose a fresh start guided by God and his guiding hand. They did not yet realize the hardships before them. They were ill-prepared for the coming months. But they chose to settle this barren wilderness, and to allow their God to be their guide.

This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for the new beginnings that God offers us, and remember to follow the one who knows the outcomes of every decision. Only he knows what lies in store for us in coming days, and only he can guide us.

 

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Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

Landing of the Pilgrims by Cornè, Michele Feli...

Landing of the Pilgrims by Cornè, Michele Felice circa 1805. Displayed in the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the early 17th century the Church of England, led by King James I, persecuted anyone who did not recognize the churches absolute civil and religious authority. Those who disagreed with the church were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs.

A group of Separatists, those who believed that the Church of England was beyond repair, fled to Holland and lived for 11 years until they decided to flee to the New World. It was no doubt a difficult decision to make, but they were absolute in their pursuit of freedom to worship God in a manner they believed he approved. These future colonists decided their religious freedom and identity were worth the treacherous journey across the ocean and a difficult life in a new frontier.

On August 6, 1620, after many delays the Mayflower set sail with 102 passengers including 40 of the Separatists who we know as the Pilgrims. The voyage took seven weeks. On the day the lookout spotted land, the passengers rushed to the deck. The sight of land was overwhelming for those who had spent so long at sea and they burst forth with praise and gratitude to their God. Their moment of celebration lasted so long that the Captain was forced to order them below the deck.

The travelers were weary from their journey, but what lied ahead for them was two of the most difficult years of their lives. The land they celebrated seeing for the first time was already in the early stages of winter. The delays they experienced in England had cost them two months of mild, autumn weather. They were surprised to find their journey had only led them a few hundred miles north of their destination of the Virginia colony. They were less than a week’s journey from landfall! The Virginia colony offered a fresh start for the Pilgrims. They started south, but their progress was slowed by the dangerous weather and low tides. The coast line was a treacherous passage. The trip became frighteningly perilous, and the Pilgrims began praying feverishly for the safety of the ship.

Elder William Brewster called a meeting with John Carver, William Bradford, and Edward Winslow. Brewster felt that God was intervening in their passage to the Virginia Colony. The men discussed their own feelings about the situation and decided that it must be God’s providence that was discouraging their progress southward. They referred to the account of God’s intervention of Paul and Silas’ journey into Asia recorded in Acts 16:6-10. The Holy Spirit instead directed Paul and Silas to Macedonia, which led to the creation of the Philippians Church. During their meeting, Captain Jones interrupted their assembly with his latest assessment. The journey south would have to be halted. They would return to sea and wait for the weather to improve.

The four asked that he wait until they first spoke with the others. After much discussion and prayer, the Pilgrims unanimously agreed to the change of course. They then sent word to Captain Jones, and he redirected the course back north to Cape Cod. On November 11th, 1620 they dropped anchor in a natural harbor inside of the cape.

Isn’t it funny how we often feel so comfortable when our lives are planned out? We like when our lives seem to be in order, and according to plan. But I have found that God often changes the course of our lives drastically. The Pilgrims thought they were settling in the already established (although struggling) Virginia Colony, but God had other plans for them. Our lives are often like that. Sometimes God closes doors in our lives. We may believe that we have missed out, but God knows what he is doing. This Thanksgiving lets celebrate the doors that God closed and the new doors that he opens because we chose to follow his course.

Thanksgiving Posts

Thanksgiving: New Beginnings

Thanksgiving: Promised Hope

Thanksgiving: When LIfe’s Difficult

Thanksgiving: Prosperity

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