"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Five Things I've Learned from the Flat Earth Myth

Original Manuscript of Irving's Columbus in Wade's Office
When I was in grade school I remember one of my teachers saying, "When Christopher Columbus 'sailed the ocean blue in 1492,' Europe thought Columbus would fall off the edge of the earth, because the Church taught people that the earth was flat." 

I was too young, too naive, and too ignorant to question my teacher about her statement. I know now that European Christians during the Middle Ages knew and taught others that the world was a sphere. 

Writings from the ancient Jews (1500 B.C.), the Greeks (500 B.C.), the early church fathers (A.D. 200) and even the medieval church (A.D. 1200) all represent the earth as a sphere. Columbus sailed west from Europe in order to discover a shorter route to the East Indies. Columbus sailed west to ultimately get east because he and everybody else knew that the earth was round. The idea that the Church believed the earth was flat and that Columbus' voyage proved them wrong is an outright myth.

However, for the past century, American school children have been taught this myth. Students have been told that the Church tried to prevent Columbus from sailing west to Asia, fearing that he and his sailors would sail off the edge of the earth. American school children have been taught that Columbus persevered and overcame religious opposition.

Americans who grew up in educational systems that taught this myth, have now become our leaders, and they too are perpetrating the myth. When President Obama spoke at Prince George's County Community College in Largo, Maryland on March 15, 2012, he used an illustration similar to my grade school teacher, perpetuating the flat earth myth. President Obama said:
Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail–[laughter]–they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [applause]. We’ve heard these folks in the past.
Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell has destroyed the flat earth myth in his definitive work Inventing the Flat Earth. Famous evolutionist Stephen Gould (1941-2002) reviewed Russell's book and said:
There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness...' Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote 600 years before Christ that God sits above "the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:22). The Greeks, like the Jews, knew the earth was a globe by observing lunar eclipses. They saw the earth's shadow on the moon when the earth came directly between the moon and the sun, and they observed a circular shadow of the earth's outline. This was 2,000 years before Columbus sailed the Atlantic.

Almost a millennium before Columbus sailed, the Christian historian and theologian Bede (A.D. 672 - 735) wrote
We call the earth a globe, not as if the shape of a sphere were expressed in the diversity of plains and mountains, but because, if all things are included in the outline, the earth’s circumference will represent the figure of a perfect globe.
Again, everybody in Columbus' day knew the earth was a sphere.

The Flat Earth Myth was created in the 19th century, around the same time the theory of evolution was created by Charles Darwin. Too many Christians have swallowed "hook, line, and sinker" that people of faith in earlier centuries were scientifically ignorant. On the contrary, the greatest scientists of all time were people of faith (think BedeIsaac Newton, Albert Einstein, etc.)

Creation Ministries International does a superb job showing how two 19th century "scientists," who were avowed anti-Christian bigots, pushed the Flat Earth Myth to prove Christianity was a religion of ignorant people. John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918) wrote polemically against Christianity, including Draper's poorly researched History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and White's anti-Christian tome History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Both Draper and White wished the world to embrace Darwin's theory of evolution, and with that embrace, approach life from a purely secular and humanistic world view, with no thought of a God to whom anyone is accountable.

However, the average American didn't come to believe the Flat Earth Myth because of Draper's and White's writings. Nobody read them. The major culprit for most Americans believing that medieval Christians thought the earth was flat was America's first best-selling author, a man named Washington Irving (1783-1859).

Born in New York shortly after the Revolutionary War, Irving traveled abroad to England in 1815 and would stay in England and Europe for the next 17 years. In 1819, Irving published The Sketch-Book , which included superb short stories like Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Instantly, Irving became the first best-selling author from America. Irving's works of fiction had historical roots in New York. In fact, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow could rightly called historical fiction. Irving was a superb story teller, but he never trained as an academic historian.

In 1826, Irving moved to Madrid Spain to work for the American Consulate. While in Madrid, Irving worked on A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (online manuscript here). Irving's handwritten manuscript on Columbus was published as a book in 1828. It was in Irving's book on Columbus that the Flat Earth Myth was first propagated. Irving, ever the great story teller, embellished the account of Columbus' standing before the Council of Salamanca. Irving represented Columbus as having to "defend his new theory of a round earth" before  church dignitaries, learned friars, and other monastic authorities who held to the religious dogma of a flat earth.

This conflict over a new theory of a round earth never happened. Columbus never received opposition to his belief in a round earth because all learned men of Columbus day, particularly church authorities, believed in a spherical earth.

Remember, Irving was a writer of historical fiction, with emphasis on the word fiction. He would base his works on history, but Irving was a creative story teller. Embellishing historical events with colorful fictional anecdotes would sell more books!

Irving was not malevolent toward Christianity. His mother was a loving, pious Episcopalian, and his father was a stern Presbyterian deacon who taught his boys the catechism. Irving wasn't anti-Christian. He was just a good storyteller. His biography of Columbus, which contained the fictional fight with church elders over a global earth, went through 175 editions - a world-wide bestseller! It was Irving's fiction of the Church opposing Columbus belief in a round earth that began the Flat Earth Myth.

Even the erudite Charles Spurgeon would read Irving's book on Columbus and take Irving's anecdote of Columbus before the church council as historical fact. It probably didn't help that Spurgeon was very anti-Catholic, and Irving's work enabled Spurgeon to solidify his view that the Roman Catholic Church was ignorant of truth. Spurgeon lauded Irving's work on Columbus and wrote this about Columbus before the Council of Salamanca.
Notwithstanding the dense bigotry and stupidity of his audience, a few were convinced of the reasonableness of the new theory, and these converts, doubtless, shielded Columbus from the ecclesiastical censures of the prejudiced. But the greater number doggedly persevered in their old opinions, and the poor navigator, as our readers well know, had to fight an uphill battle for years, and had to conquer many adverse circumstances before he saw the "Land of the Free." 
Even the best of men can fall for a myth.

In the spring of 1832 Washington Irving came back to America after a seventeen year absence. In October 1832, he traveled to an army outpost on the far reaches of the frontier (Fort Gibson, Indian Territory) and set out on a six-week tour of what is now the great state of Oklahoma. Irving wrote A Tour on the Prairies (published in 1835), the best-selling book about his adventurous prarie travels, and it remains a delightful glimpse into what the land of Oklahoma looked like in the 1830's (bears, elk, buffalo, Indians, rivers, crosstimbers, prairies, etc.).

I have hanging on my wall a portion of Irving's original 1826 manuscript on the life of Columbus (see picture at the top). I've read every book Irving has written, as well as most biographies written about Irving. In terms of his legacy, Irving is America's first best-selling author. In terms of his writing, it is colorful historical fiction. 

Washington Irving is the unintentional originator of the Flat Earth Myth. 

There are five things we can learn from Irving's Flat Earth Myth, particularly in an age when most people get their "information" from social media. 

1. Do not accept everything you read as fact, even if it is presented as historical fact.
2. Every author has bias or an agenda; even those who claim to be neutral science or history writers. Irving's agenda in his work on Columbus was to take the dry, historical record and color it with fictional narrative (like Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow) in order to make Columbus more readable, which ultimately means more book sales and ultimately more profits for the author.
3. Always question for yourself the teaching of those who wish to have authority over you. As  Good teachers, whether it be Socrates or Christ, always allow students to ask questions and even criticize the teacher, desiring students to think for themselves.
4. Recognize the tendency for bias in yourself.
5. The Christian faith and science are not incompatible. 

Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International

One of the most effective Christian outreach ministries for mothers of young children is called MOPS - Mothers of Preschoolers.

For the past two decades, MOPS has been a place of discipleship and encouragement at Emmanuel Enid (the church I pastor) for mothers of preschoolers. One of Emmanuel's leaders for MOPS is Sarah Wilkins. It's been my privilege to know Sarah for many years. Her testimony of conversion to faith in Christ is very moving. She is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a wife and mom, and a business professional in her own right. 

Recently Sarah came to me with concerns over the direction of MOPS International. I listened. She asked me to read a book that is being featured and promoted by MOPS International, a book written by the current President of MOPS International, and featured in this year's MOPS curriculum.  After reading the book, I too share Sarah's concerns. I recently wrote my thoughts about this book which has yet to be released to the public.

After working through the proper channels and processes for voicing concerns to MOPS International, Sarah Wilkins and Emmanuel Enid's local MOPS leadership felt it appropriate to make their concerns public. Below is Sarah's Open Letter to those involved in MOPS ministry through local churches. She and other MOPS leaders at our church will be available to answer additional questions of concern in the comment section below:


An Open Letter to the Moms and Churches of MOPS International:

My name is Sarah Wilkins, and I love and have lived MOPS ministry for eight years.  I am writing to you my concerns over the new direction that I perceive MOPS to be taking after speaking with two levels of MOPS volunteer coaches, one MOPS employee, and reading and digesting the materials included in the member packet, magazine, leadership group packet, and website.

First, let me tell you about our MOPS group at Emmanuel in Enid, Oklahoma. We have had a MOPS group for over 20 years. Our current group has steering members from multiple denominations including Baptist, charismatic, Catholic, and Lutheran. We have been and continue to be involved in outreach with an “every-mom” focused. We believe that God is working in the lives of these women, because they walk into a church building to meet with women they have never laid eyes on before. God created them. God loves them. God is working in their lives already; our task is to join Him in His work.

I am very concerned about the registration packets MOPS moms will be receiving this year. In fact, so concerned that after our local church MOPS leadership team pre-read the group experience packet sent to us by MOPS International we halted our registration.  This year, after each mom pays, MOPS international intends to mail each mom a packet that contains materials which market the book Starry Eyed. The packet also includes a companion book that directs the reader to read portions out Starry Eyed with each chapter.  This companion book contains snippets of all kinds of belief systems and no gospel.  There is also a "Truth or Dare" 28-Day Challenge. It includes dares that would be highly inappropriate for many of our moms who are not married.

When our steering team gathered to set goals for this year, we watched the online videos made by MOPS, including the Come Alive video by Mandy Arioto, President, who also happens to be the author of the book Starry Eyed.  The last two minutes of the Come Alive video is what prompted our steering group to send letters to Mrs. Arioto and the Board of Directors of MOPS International. When we hear Mrs. Arioto say that women do not find God where people usually say, we hear her to mean the church and the Bible. Her words are murky and therefore open to interpretation.  We also see a refusal to use the word sin throughout all of the MOPS materials and videos. We are hearing Mrs. Arioto. We hear her when she writes she does not like the church,  a sentiment she emphasizes by stating it clearly in a line in her book Starry Eyed. We hear her clearly when she uses her words to caution people away from the “usual places we are told to find God.”

I perceive there to be lots of life directional pointing in the MOPS materials, and my deep concern is that I cannot ascertain exactly where the materials are pointing. Modern American psychology is used heavily. This years’ material is ambiguous in places and encourages the employment of coping mechanisms like saying it out loud, and accepting being human, instead of offering OUR LASTING HOPE.  I have read through everything, and the majority theme seems to be pointing moms to self actualization through new age mysticism, Celtic mysticism, humanism, and other belief systems. My steering team is convinced that Jesus is not whom the women in our group will discover if they receive their package, read the magazine, and read the book. 

After speaking with my MOPS local coach, speaking with my area coach and emailing with MOPS paid employee over the West coast and central US; I believe MOPS incognito strategy is dangerous. Here is an excerpt from the email exchange with MOPS employee.
             “…As far as referencing secular sources, we see several times in Acts where the Apostles quote the audience's own philosophers make a note of the inscriptions on tombs that are to an unknown God, just to be relevant to their audience as well as bring in what their audience is placing their trust in, in order to point to Jesus. By quoting secular sources we are doing just what the apostles did- quoting extra sources that point to Jesus even if they are not coming from a Biblical standpoint. Rather, they come from a very worldly standpoint and are still pointing to Jesus even though they may not realize it. Praise the Lord that His creations sings His praises!...”

There is personal irony here as my third daughter is named Damaris after this very segment of scripture in Acts 17. Paul argued in the Areopagus and cited the altar TO THE UNKOWN GOD as evidence of their religiosity. He then starts describing the ONE true God. He commands them to repent.  There were two converts Damaris and Dionysius.  Many scholars believe that Paul left that city vowing to no longer use this strategy as just two converts was a failure.  He said he left there and decided to only preach the gospel….that is the good news of Jesus. Other scholars argue that it wasn’t a failure and he tailored and countered the domineering mindset of the specific culture of the specific people at a specific period of time and challenged it with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The use of the scripture to justify using secular sources while offering no Biblical counter and no gospel is the root of the problem.  Mrs. Leih’s quote confirms to me what our core conflict with MOPS is. This is not a small conflict of faith.  Her statement contradicts MOPS Internationals own statement of faith.

If MOPS is to be a moms group that will continue to primarily uses modern American secular encouragement on being your best self and discovering your own happiness, than our church must choose something else. We all live in a murky world where truth is hard to determine.  The devil is real, and does his best destructive work through half truths, lies, and the denial of the reality of sin. 

Thank you for your time.  We wholeheartedly believe that Mrs. Arioto is our sister in Christ.  We do not believe there is any malcontent. We do believe that something is terribly wrong at MOPS. Our steering team believes MOPS may have lost its way in terms of gospel-centeredness.

Pastors of churches who have MOPS groups:

Please get the pre-released copy of Mandy Arioto, President of MOPS book Starry Eyed from your MOPS coordinator.  The books do not go on sale until August 30t, but a single copy was mailed to each MOPS group in the Coordinator’s packet. You need to read the book and make a decision for yourself.

With Deep Concern,

Sarah Wilkins, Emmanuel MOPS Public Relations and Coordinator

Truth Is True Regardless How You Feel Or Think

This week I was handed a soon-to-be-released book on motherhood, written by a Christian mom desirous to help other moms. I was asked to read the book and review it for some of the women's ministry leaders of our church. The book is easy to read. The author's writing is above average, but it startled me to read in the introduction that she chose to place Questions at the end of each chapter, but would not give Answers. Instead, there would be a section she calls Questions and Responses because she is "uncomfortable with the idea that there is one right answer." I think I could be sympathetic with the author's sentiments if she meant that there are many applications of one right answer. But she clarified further and wrote the following:
"There are no right or wrong answers, only what is the most true for you at this very moment in life."
Again, I understand that at times in life there are no right or wrong answers. For example, I might face a decision with two potential good choices. There would be no right or wrong choice, just two good choices.  However, I read again the last portion of this Christian author's statement:
"...what is most true for you at this very moment in life."
"Most true for you at this very moment in life"? That logic is absurd. Something is either true or not. It makes no difference how I feel or what I think.

For example, if I go into a store and ask a question about how to operate my I-Phone, and then after receiving an answer,  I respond "Listen, at this very moment in life I don't find your response most true for me," I might find the attendant looking at me as if I was crazy.

Frankly, I would be crazy - or at best illogical.

Truth is truth; and the only real fix for life is to know the truth. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

When seeking directions we are often given landmarks. "Look for the McDonald's on the corner and turn right, then pass the Jewish Synagogue and turn left..." When giving directions, one better be certain about the landmarks or the person receiving directions will end up lost.

Our Christian forefathers were very particular about maintaining landmarks of truth. They had strong notions about fixed points of revealed doctrine, and they held tenaciously to what they believed to be biblical truth. Modern progressives (liberals) have abandoned landmarks of truth, and as a result people can't find the Way (Acts 9:2).

There is something very definite in the Bible. Spurgeon once said,
"Truth is not a lump of wax to be shaped at your will, or a roll of cloth to be cut according to the prevailing fashion. The Scriptures are not a box of letters to play with, and make what you like of it, like a wizard's bottle, out of which you may pour anything you choose from atheism up to spiritualism. There is something told me in the Bible—told me for certain— not put before me with a "but" and a "perhaps," and an "if," and a "maybe," and fifty thousand suspicions behind it. The Bible is revealed to me as infallible fact, which must be believed, the opposite of which is deadly error, and comes from the father of lies."
Spurgeon goes on to propose seven eternal and unalterable truths:
  • The Bible - God's inspired word which will never lead one astray (e.g. it is infallible).
  • The Triune God - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is three Persons, but one God.
  • Christ's Atonement - the only hope for sinners to be right with God is through Christ's sacrifice.
  • The New Birth - moral reformation is not enough; God's deliverance is a new birth within.
  • The Evil of Sin -  God will judge the wicked for their sins against Him and their fellow man.
  • Salvation by Grace - Christ has done for sinners what sinners cannot do for themselves.
  • Justification by Faith - Being right with God involves looking to Christ by faith; not one's own works.
These seven truths are inherent to the Good News, or the Gospel. God has not left us in the dark; He has spoken to us in His Word. The Father, the Son and the Spirit is at work in delivering sinners from our sin. Christ saves sinners by becoming their substitute; dying in their stead, bearing our sin and the just consequence of our sin (e.g. "death"). When one comes to faith in Christ, the Spirit "regenerates" (e.g. "makes alive") the inner heart of the believer and grants the gift of "eternal life." This new birth from above begins the transformation of the sinner from the inside/out. This changed life of one in Christ is all by the grace of God, for God is at work in me "both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

When we proclaim the Gospel, we proclaim truth that sets people free. We proclaim the Good News as the mind of God, not our views. The testimony of Jehovah concerning His own Son in reference to the deliverance of sinners is true. We are entrusted with declaring the truth. We cannot alter it to suit the taste of the hearer. We are not originators of the Good News; we are broadcasters of it. We don't make the news; we meme it.

What we've been taught of God, we teach. If I send a message via my secretary, but she alters the message, then she is no longer fit to be my secretary. I need a secretary who will say word for word the message I give. If any one should be angry with my faithful secretary for what was said, then they would be wrong; for their quarrel lies with me. My secretary is a mouthpiece for me; Christians are a mouthpiece for God. The Christian who has God's Word must speak it faithfully as truth.

"Thus saith the Lord."

Of course, we must be careful about the manner in which we convey truth. Truth shouted angrily does nothing but drive hearers away; but truth whispered personally in love pulls hearers in

In addition, there is no surer method of turning people against God's truth than to have it spoken from the lips of those with suspicious. sullen, or shallow character. Spurgeon said, "It is very ridiculous to hear good truth from a bad person; it is like flour in a coal-sack."

Our challenge in a world that needs Jesus Christ is to live lives that reflect the true character of regenerate people - loving, kind, generous, selfless, patient, etc.- in essence, Christ-like - and to keep speaking unalterable truth to people in need of direction! Truth spoken from the lips of those transformed by Truth is transformational in and of itself.

As messengers of the Message, we can't alter the truth.

Believe it. Live it. Teach it.

It's the only way a mom will be free to be the mom God created her to be.

The Smile of One's Father the Highest Honor

Harriett Elizabeth Beecher Stowe
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is probably the most influential woman in American history. Sadly, few are familiar with the woman many Americans once considered the equivalent in fame to the Queen of England.

Born Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, and called "Hattie" as a child, Harriett was the daughter of Lyman Beecher, a famous American preacher of his day, and the sister to Henry Ward Beecher, an influential abolitionist pastor. Harriett would later marry a pastor, Calvin Stowe, and she would bear sons who also became pastors.

Hattie's father, Lyman Beecher, moved from Connecticut to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1832 to become the president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. Harriett Elizabeth Beecher, 21 years of age at the time, followed her father to Cincinnati. Both Lyman and Harriett Beecher became friends with my great-great grandfather Charles T. Cherry, who was the western agent for the American Sunday School Union and ran a book store and publishing house in downtown Cincinnati near the Ohio River. At the time my grandfather knew Harriet Beecher, she worked as a writer/reporter for the Cincinnati newspaper. While in Cincinnati, Harriett met and fell in love with Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor and ardent abolitionist. The two were married in 1836 and they remained married for the next 50 years, until Calvin's death.

Just across the Ohio River which runs through downtown Cincinnati was the slave state  of Kentucky. Harriett was first exposed to the institution of slavery on her visits to Kentucky. In Cincinnati, she also heard first-person accounts from former slaves who had escaped slave using the Underground Railroad. Harriett began to write about the sinfulness and awfulness of slavery, becoming a well-known advocate for the abolition of slavery.

In 1850, Calvin accepted a teaching position at Bowdoin College in Maine, and Calvin and Harriett moved from Cincinnati to Brunswick, Maine. That same year (1850), Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced northerners, under penalty of law, to return runaway slaves to their southern owners. It was the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which prompted Harriett Beecher Stowe to write the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Stowe’s gripping portrayal of the horrors of racial slavery captured the nation. Abolitionists embraced the book as their manifesto, but those desiring slavery cursed both the book and its author. Abolitionists quickly wrote screen plays of Uncle Tom's Cabin and put the story on stage, with the characters of Tom, Eva and Topsy becoming American icons.

During the height of the Civil War, Harriett traveled to Washington  where she met with President Abraham Lincoln. A popular story about the meeting has the President greeting Harriett with these words: “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While little is known about the actual meeting, it is without doubt that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of the major sources of the national conflict over slavery.

Harriett Beecher Stowe would receive accolades throughout her life and in the decades after her death. The Harriett Beecher Stowe Center in Connecticut is dedicated to keeping her life and legacy alive. The Harriett Beecher Stowe House in Maine, where Hattie wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, is a museum and bookstore that honor the life of a great American woman.

Harriett Beecher Stowe's greatest honor, however, came when she was twelve years old. It happened when she was still in Connecticut, prior to moving to Cincinnati. It was Harriett's first and most rewarding honor. 

When Harriet was eleven, she wrote her first essay. She would later recall how astonished she was at the ease in which she could place in writing her thoughts.  Writing came naturally to her, and she soon began to write for fun.  Even as a child, she would write for hours at a time, and would later go back to what she had written, making revisions as necessary. 

Her first honor and award for writing came after a year of practice writing, when she was all of telve years of age. The students at the Litchfield Academy, where Harriett attended school in Connecticut, were required to submit essays at the end of the school year. The grand prize was for the winning paper to be read aloud by the headmaster at the graduation exercises. 

In 1823, the grand prize was awarded by a unanimous vote of the Litchfield Academy judges to a document entitled Can the Immortality of the Soul Be Proved by the Light of Nature? Reading the twenty-five hundred words aloud, the headmaster kept the audience in rapt attention with the logical and easy to understand narrative on nature's evidence of man's immortality. When the headmaster finished, the audience exploded in applause. 

Then, to the shock of the students and parents in attendance, the headmaster announced that the winner of the the essay contest was 12-year-old Harriet Elizabeth Beecher. 

Harriett turned and glanced at her father when her name was announced, and would later say she never forgot the proud and delightful smile on her father's face as he stood with others and applauded. Time dissipated Hattie's memory of that day; everything but the memory of her father's smile. Toward the end of her life, Harriett reflected on this experience as a 12-year-old and said to her friends: 
"My father's smile is the highest honor I have ever received."
Any of us fathers would do well to remember this anecdote of Harriett Elizabeth Beecher Stowe, and be quick to share a smile with our children, knowing that though they may become highly honored and famous in America, it is the smile of one's father that is their highest honor. 

Left Behind Theology Means You're Left Behind

For some reason I missed that Tim LaHaye died this month. The author of the popular Left Behind fictional series (over 50 million copies sold) is responsible for more unintentional damage to the evangelical church, in my opinion, than any other person of the 20th century.

Tim LaHaye loved Jesus and Christ's church. His Christian faith is not to be doubted. It is his fictional writing, passed off by many as being based on good, biblical theology, which caused the damage. LaHaye's legacy is like the seasoned doctor with a scalpel in hand, who unintentionally amputates the patient's good leg. The eventual double amputee doesn't care that the physician's heart was good or his motive innocent; all he cares about is the damage caused by the doctor's hands.

Tim LayHaye wrote fictional stories are about "end times" and the second coming of Jesus. The books he wrote detail what he imagined could happen during and after the rapture, the alleged time when born-again Christians are secretly taken out of the world, leaving others "Left Behind."  According to LaHaye, the "Left Behind" world will be plunged into tribulation, wars, plagues, and catastrophic chaos until Jesus comes to put an end to Armageddon. Christians escape hell on earth because they are in heaven enjoying Christ and His kingdom there.  

Christians who believe LaHaye's fictional books are based on good biblical theology have had their spiritual legs amputated. They have trouble walking by faith now, and base their only hope on their ability to walk then. When you are always looking for a Kingdom to come, you miss the Kingdom that is
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21). 
The reign of Christ in our hearts is to be enjoyed and experienced now. The enjoyment of the Kingdom of Christ now instead of looking for a Kingdom to come, transforms the believer from a church going religious person waiting for heaven into a Christ-honoring relational person transforming the the world now.

The King of Kings is to be personally heard now.  The Kingdom is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27). The reign of Christ in your life is the focus of Christianity. You are the King's ambassador in a world who knows not your King. Instead of being a person who loves singing the King is coming, be a person who enjoys showing the King is here.

Tim LaHaye wrote good fiction.

The words of Scripture are about real life.

The Bible speaks of the reality of the powerful presence of the King of Kings begins taking up residence-- not just theoretical residence, but personal and practical residence--in the little piece of clay the Bible calls your life (II Corinthians 4:7). 

The treasure of the gospel is truly a treasure within.

So, next time you become captivated with what the world might look like after an alleged rapture, why don't you take a few moments and consider what your life, your family, your home and your world could look with the King of Kings reigning in you now.

Imputed, Imparted, and Imbedded Righteousness

Righteousness is a big, important word that  conveys one of the life's most vital concepts.

The Bible declares that God is righteous.  "O LORD, God of Israel, You are righteous!" (Ezra 9:15). "The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion" (Psalms 116:5). "The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made" (Psalms 145:17).

The Hebrew word translated righteousness has as its root the meaning of "right" or "straight." The Old English word used to translate the Hebrew word was "oughtness." God is right. God is straight. God is as He ought to be.

To be righteous is to be right. It is to be a person who is not crooked in character or conduct. However, because of sin in all of us, there is "no one righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10). Nobody is as we ought to be. We are not righteous in character, and we are not holy in conduct. Holiness is but the outward expression of internal righteousness, and without holiness "no one will see the Lord" (Hebrew 12:14).

How then, does a sinner become righteous in the eyes of God?

Imputed Righteousness

The word "impute" means to "credit to an account" of another. It is an accounting term. When God imputes righteousness, it means that God credits "righteousness" to the account of a sinner. How can I be seen by God as "righteous" when both God and I know that that I'm a sinner.

"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

God credits me with perfect righteousness when I believe in Christ. My trust (faith) is credited as righteousness to me" (Romans 4:22).

"I am found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:9).

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

You are declared righteous by God through the gift of His righteousness given to all those with faith in Christ.

Imparted Righteousness

"Imparted righteousness" identifies the internal work of God when He regenerates those who trust in Christ. Believers in Christ become "partakers of the divine nature" (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It is this principle of righteousness imparted to men in regeneration which is ever in conflict with the old Adamic nature.

It is critical, however, to maintain the distinction between the "imputed righteousness" of Christ which is the basis for justification and this "imparted righteousness" which may be seen as the basis for subsequent sanctification.

Imbedded Righteousness

For all you English majors out there, imbedded is a legitimate variant spelling of embedded. 

To be imedded means "to fix into a surrounding mass; or to incorporate as an essential part or characteristic." 

When something is imbedded, it cannot be removed. The characteristics of that which is imbedded are seen in the mass in which it is imbedded. For example, when red dye is imbedded into plastic, you have red plastic. When paint is imbedded into canvas, you have art. When righteousness is imbedded into a sinner, you have a person who begins to pursue what is right.

In essence, nobody has warrant to say they have been given the gift of imputed righteousness, and have in them the presence of imparted righteousness, until they life a life that shows evidence of imbedded righteousness. 

Nobody who knows Christ continues in their sin. We all sin. We who have received the righteousness of Christ have righteousness imbedded within us, and therefore, the characteristics of living right are always present - for we can't help it.

It's imbedded within our DNA as followers of Jesus.

No One Is Told Any Story But Their Own

A world cursed with sin produces people caught in pain.

In my experience, my emotions are most traumatized by pain in others. I often handle better my own trauma than I do seeing others in pain, particularly those close to me. Maybe you feel the same.

"What was God thinking when those thugs raped my daughter?"  "Where was God during my husband's horrible accident that left him paralyzed?" "Why didn't God prevent the car wreck that killed my sister and her husband and left their three kids orphans?" "How can God allow my grandson to suffer through life with his physical deformities?" "How will God provide for my son and his family after he lost his job?"

The frustration and pain we feel for others is often more intense than the pain we feel for ourselves. Adding to our stress in empathy is the despair we feel over events like what happened in Nice, France last week, or Dallas, Texas, the week before, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana yesterday. The deeper our creation descends into darkness the more it seems we have questions for the Creator of light.

Why, God?

I love C.S. Lewis. His writing causes me to think. In his little known book  The Horse and His Boy, there is comfort for we who feel for the pain in others. A friend suggested I read The Horse and His Boy to help families who watch someone they love suffer through a terminal illness. Those standing around the bed of a loved one who is dying are asking the question, "Why?"

C.S. Lewis, in my opinion, has given the definitive answer in The Horse and His Boy.

Lewis tells the story of two young slaves, Shasta and Avaris, who are riding their talking horses to the Land of Narnia. The attempted escape to Narnia began for Avaris when she poisoned her stepmother's servant, the one responsible for keeping Avaris in captivity. Avarice fled and then met Shasta on the road north, joining him in the escape to Narnia.

Several times disaster almost befell the two escapees. Each time a Lion intervened to rescue them. On one occasion, enemy forces came close to capturing Shasta and Avaris, but the Lion spooked the talking horses, causing them to run faster to escape the trouble. However, in spooking the horses, the Lion's paw injured Avaris. Her wound, though not fatal, scarred her.

After safely arriving in Narnia, Avaris and Shasta discover that the Lion's name is Aslan, and He has been their Protector. After they discuss events during their journey where Aslan protected them from doom, Averis asks a probing question about her injury.

The Lion, whom Lewis intended to represent Jesus Christ, answers Avaris:
"The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother's slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like."
The Lion revealed to Avaris that her physical suffering was intended to shape her inner character (see Romans 5:3-5). But, like we all have a tendency to do, Avaris turned her mind toward the injury and physical pain of another. She asks a question about the slave girl she drugged to begin her escape.
"Will any more harm come to her by what I did?"
The answer that Aslan the Lion gives to Avaris should be written on the templates of our minds and sealed in our hearts until we see Christ personally at the resurrection. He said:

"Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own."
It seems to me much of my maladjustment in a sin-cursed world comes from wanting to understand the reason for other peoples' pain. God is not in the business of cluing me in on any story but my own.

In Hebrews 11, some of God's people conquered kingdoms, victoriously defeated the enemy, and prospered in this life; but others were imprisoned, beheaded, and suffered mightily, not receiving the blessings others of God's people received because "God had planned something better..." (Hebrews 11:40).

God has the answers for the reasons for trauma and pain in all our lives. But no one is told any story but their own. It goes without saying then, that if He's uninterested in telling me any story but my own, then I should be intentional in not attempting to give answers to "Why" to those I love.

I don't know; only they do - or will - and they will only know when Aslan tells them, not me.

Jesus has the answers for the reasons trauma and pain are present in this   cursed world. He alone can tell me my story from the position of Protector. He will not tell me any story but my own.

I'm learning to listen to Him when it comes to my story and to trust Him when it comes to somebody else.

Christ, Columbus, Cortez, Coronado and Christians and How the Love of Money Is the Root of All Evil

"Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours
 and too little on the last six thousand years." Will Durant

The typical Christian in America feels no connection to the world as a whole. After we hear the message on Sunday morning, we will leave the corporate gathering thinking how the verses apply to us - today! While that's good, too many of us have no idea how to trace the practical application of a text throughout world history. 

Let me give an example from James 5. 
"The time has come for you plutarchs to mourn and weep because of the miseries in store for you... You have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full. You have picked out just what you wanted like soldiers looting after battle. You have condemned and ruined innocent men in your career, and they have been powerless to stop you."   James 5:1, 5-6 Philip's Translation
We read James' passage and see it as a caution similar to one from the Apostle Paul: "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (I Timothy 6:10). We tend to reflect on these admonitions as it applies to us individually, or at most to our family.

But it seems to me an even fuller understanding of this passage comes from a knowledge of world history and our connection to it.

James, the author of the book in the Bible, was one of Christ's early disciples. Millions of Catholics believe that after the death and resurrection of Christ, James traveled to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) to preach the Good News to the Hispanic people (Hispanic is the Roman Latin word for Iberian). James has always had a special place in the hearts of the Spanish people because of his trip to Iberia. Santiago is the Hispanic name for James, and the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is a pilgrimage to the Santiego de Compostela Cathedral in northwestern Spain to pay homage to the alleged relics (bones) of St. James. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Way of St. James was considered by Roman Catholics a pilgrimage on par with one to Rome or Jerusalem.

It is without doubt that the gospel of Jesus Christ  came to the Iberian Peninsula soon after the resurrection of Christ. Paul himself speaks of his wish to go to Spain (see Romans 15:24). The Good News spread quickly in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and the Hispanic people living in the southwest corner of Europe converted to Christianity. As the Iberian people began to follow Christ and His teachings, it seems logical that they would pay particular heed to the writings of James' and Paul's. These two apostles loved Spain, and they had both issued cautions about the evil that come from the love of money.

But as Christianity grew in numbers in Spain, the established church in Iberia became rich and fell in love with money. Church treasuries burst with silver and gold. Church bishops and leaders received appointments through patronage (e.g. "their gifts to the church and king"). The rich began to rule and lord over the poor in the church, a direct contradiction of James' warning (James 5:1, 5-6).  The Iberian church treasured their silver and gold more than their Savior and God.

The Evil Began in A.D. 711.

Like 9/11 in America, an event occurred in Iberia (Spain and Portugal) in A.D. 711 that traumatized the Christian people. The Muslims from North Africa, called the Moors, invaded the Iberian peninsula. With 10,000 soldiers, the Moors used violence and threatened to kill anyone who refused to convert to their Islamic religion and beliefs.

As the Moors (Muslims) moved from south to north, seven bishops of the church gathered at Porto, a little sea port on the western shore of the Iberian Peninsula. The bishops brought with them the wealth of the church, vast caravans of precious stones, jewelry, gold, silver, fortified wine and other riches. Wine connoisseurs know that fortified wine is wine with brandy added, a practice originally begun to help preserve the wine, but which continues because of its unique and rich taste. What many people don't know is that fortified wine gets its name Port Wine from the city of Porto, the place from where this wine was first shipped to the world. The full name of the city of Porto is Porto Cale, or literally "Port of the Gaels," from which the name Portugal is derived. The nation of Portugal comes into existence only after the Europeans defeat the Muslims and retake the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquesta.

But before the Reconquesta, when everything looked dark and hopeless, seven bishops boarded ships and left Porto and sailed west into the unknown Atlantic ocean. All they wanted to do was get away from the Muslims - with their wealth. Remember, these were the "pastors" of the Iberian Christian churches. Sometimes the greater evil in a country is not the spread of radical Islam among a people as much as it is the subtle and deadly seduction of Christian churches and leaders to the love of material things over spiritual things. 

Where did these bishops go?

The Legend of the Seven Cities of Gold

For the next several centuries the people of Portugal and Spain believed the seven bishops left Porto and settled on an island called Antillia. In A.D. 1492, German geographer Martin Behaim (1436-1507) constructed the earliest globe of the world, one still in existence today.  On that globe, Behaim shows Antillia in middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  In the same year of A.D. 1492, Portuguese cartographer Martinho da Boemia presented to Portugal's King John II a map of the known world. It, too, contained the island of Antillia, representing the fabled island of the seven cities, and the furthest west anyone from Europe had ever sailed (see map below).

Near the island of Antillia on the map above, the Portuguese cartographer placed the following description of Antillia:
"In the year 734 of Christ, when the whole of Spain had been won by the heathen (Moors) of Africa, the above island Antilia, called Septe citade (Seven cities), was inhabited by an archbishop from the Porto in Portugal, with six other bishops, and other Christians, men and women, who had fled thither from Spain, by ship, together with their cattle, belongings, and goods."
Europeans were captivated by the stories of the Seven Cities of Gold. Not only was it said the Iberian bishops arrived on Antillia with their riches, but the bishops found more gold on Antillia. Some Europeans believed that the bishops had rediscovered Plato's legendary Atlantis. Rumors only increased--and in the minds of many solidified--when a few sailors reported they'd seen the island of Attillia for themselves during their Atlantic travels. In A.D. 1414 a Portuguese ship returned to Portugal and the captain and his men reported to Prince Henry the Navigator, King of Portugal. They said they had actually landed on Antillia and seen with their own eyes the Seven Cities of Gold. The reason these sailors are the only ones to have reported the discovery of Antillia to the King is recorded by English author H.C. Adams writes in 1883:
During the generations which had intervened since the settlement of the bishops on Antillia, a few Portuguese navigators had at one time or another, reached the island; but they were unable to return to Portugal, having been detained by the descendants of the bishops; who, understanding that Spain was still ruled by the infidel, were afraid that their place of retreat might be discovered, and invaded by the enemy (e.g. Muslims). The mariners affirmed, that while part of the crew were in church, the others gathered some sand on the sea shore, and found, to their astonishment, that one-third of it was gold dust. The islanders were anxious that the ships should remain until the return of the governor, who chanced to be absent. But the captain, who had heard of the detention of his predecessors, and was probably afraid that the same policy would be pursued towards himself, returned to his ship, and weighed anchor. Prince Henry on hearing the story of the mariners, expressed it is said, great displeasure at their having quitted the island without having obtained fuller information, and sent orders requiring them to return and ascertain everything of importance concerning it. It is probable that the mariners had privately learnt something of his intentions; for they took their departure on a sudden, and before his message reached them. Nor were they ever heard of again.
Adams, H. C. 1817-1899. Travellers’ Tales: a Book of Marvels. London, New York: G. Routledge, 1883.
Whether you believe the story that seven Christian bishops left Porto on the Iberian Peninsula during the 8th century with a vast amount of wealth,  fleeing their people and country during a period of severe Islamic persecution, and eventually founding an island nation in the middle of the Atlantic with a vast of gold and silver is irrelevant.

There is one key person in world history who did believe the story.

Christopher Columbus ( b. October 31, 1451- d. May 20, 1506)

Born in Genoa, Italy, Columbus entered the world during a time Europe craved the spices and silks of southeast Asia and China--not to mention gold and silver wherever it could be found. The Europeans traveled the famous Silk Road over land to trade with the Chinese. Ever since the day of Marco Polo (A.D. 1254-1324) and the Chinese leaders Ghengis Khan and Kublia Khan, the Chinese welcomed great caravans of Europeans who wished to trade with Cathay (China) and Cipangu (Japan).  The Silk Road route was long and dangerous, but it was often traveled since the days of Marco Polo because of the spice and silk trade. However, in 1453, two years after Columbus' birth, the Ottomons (Turks) captured Constantinople, the starting point of the Silk Road for Europeans, and renamed the city Istanbul.  The Ottoman Turks then forbade European trading caravans from crossing from Europe through Constantinople onto the Silk Road that led to China. European and Chinese trade virtually came to a halt.

That's when the great Spanish and Portuguese ocean explorers of the 15th century began looking for a ship route west across the Atlantic to avoid crossing the Ottoman Empire lands Asia Minor (Turkey). Contrary to what you learned in grade school, 15th century oceanic explorers knew the world was round, but the early explorers who attempted to go west from the Iberian Peninsula across the Atlantic invariably failed to get far due to the ferocious headwinds.

It was Christopher Columbus who discovered that you must begin your oceanic trip westward from a point further south, near the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa (near the modern day Western Sahara). From there, a ship's sails could catch trade winds blowing from the east (from behind) as the boat sailed west, and then on the return trip to Europe, the boat would take a more northerly route, catching the western trade winds that had made sailing west  from Europe so difficult. Columbus moved from Italy to Portugal, married a Portuguese woman, and was living on the Portuguese Island of Madeira  when he had the revelation of sailing to the unknown west from the south, beginning near the Canary Islands.

When Columbus finally received funding from Spain's Ferdinand and Isabella to sail west to discover a sea route to Cathay (China) and Cipangu (Japan) after his own Portuguese king, King John II, had denied funding, Columbus was encouraged by many to find the island of Antillia as he crossed the Atlantic. As far as everyone knew, the island Antillia and the Seven Cities was the only piece of land between Portugal and China to the west. The continent of America was not yet known to exist in 1492. 

So, when "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492," becoming the first European to make the transatlantic trip, and landed on a remote Bermuda Island on October 12, 1492 he thought he had found ancient Antillia, either an island paradise or a group of islands that contained on them the Seven Cities of Gold. For this reason, to this day, the large islands of the Caribbean are called the Greater Antilles (from Antillia) and the small islands are called the Lesser Antilles.

The lust for gold intensified when the Indians (misnamed "Indians" because Columbus thought he was closing in on the country of India) who met Columbus in the Antilles wore gold earrings and gold nose rings. Columbus eventually left a few men in the Antilles to search for gold and sailed back to Spain in early 1493. 
The rush for gold was on. 

Hernándo Cortés (b. 1485 - c. December 2, 1547)

Hernando Cortes was born in A.D. 1485 in Spain. He studied law, but at the age of nineteen, Cortez sailed to the Spanish colony of Greater Antillies (Haiti and the Domincan Republic). In 1511 Cortes took part in an expedition to conquer Cuba.
In 1519 Cortes led an expedition to the Mexican mainland.

With only 600 men Cortez conquered the ancient civilization of the Aztecs still seeking the mythical Seven Cities. The Spaniards had guns, horses (animals unknown to the Aztecs), and armor foreign to the Aztecs. The Aztecs believed that their god Quetzalcoatl had once left Mexico by sea and had promised to return. According to legend the anticipated year of the coming of the Aztec's Messiah was 1519 - the year Hernando Cortes arrived.

The Aztec emperor Montezuma feared that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl. He dared not attack a god and so took no action against the Aztecs. By the time the Aztecs realized the truth it was too late. When the Spaniards first arrived Montezuma, King of the Aztecs, welcomed the Spaniards as friends and housed them in a palace in what is now Mexico City. However after a week Hernando Cortes took the emperor hostage and demanded that Montezuma come with him and stay with the Spaniards - or face death. 

Cortez March to Defeat the Aztecs at Their Capital (Mexico City)
The emperor gave in and from that moment he was a Spanish puppet. The Spaniards were now in control of Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors stole all the gold and silver of the Aztec civilization and pillaged the land they now called "New Spain."  Cortes was appointed New Spain's first governor. 
Cortes brought in priests of the Roman Catholic Church to "Christianize" the Aztecs. Unfortunately, due to war, disease and famine, the Aztec population dropped by an estimated 90% as the people were wiped out by the Spaniards. Cortez would return to Spain in 1541 and die in 1547 at the age of 62.
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján  (b. 1510 – d. September 22, 1554)

The legend of the Seven Cities of Gold was revived during the 1530s.

Four people survived a shipwreck on the Gulf Coast of modern Texas of the failed Narváez expedition and managed to walk back to New Spain. One of the survivors, a man named Estevanan, told a colorful story upon his return. His Narváez expedition, which began in 1527, was aimed at the colonization of Florida. In 1528, while attempting to sail from Mexico to Florida, the crew was shipwrecked on the coast of Texas. The men who survived were captured by the indigenous people. After four years in captivity, the men managed to escape, and for the next four years wandered across what is today the southern United States. When they finally encountered Spanish soldiers at Sinaloa in modern day Mexico, only four men were left, out of an initial force of 600. Through their years of wandering, the men encountered numerous indigenous tribes, and one of the legends they heard was about seven cities laden with gold, said to be located somewhere in the Sonoran Desert (the southwest portion of what is now the United States).

Coronado was the Governor of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia), a province of New Spain located northwest of Mexico and comprising the contemporary Mexican states of Jalisco, Sinaloa and Nayarit. In 1539, he dispatched Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevan , the survivor of the Narváez expedition, on an expedition to present-day New Mexico. When de Niza returned, he told of a city of vast wealth, a golden city called Cíbola, whose Zuni residents were assumed to have killed Estevan. Though he did not claim to have entered the city of Cíbola, he said he stood on a high hill and that it appeared wealthy and as large as Mexico City.

After receiving a report of the possible location of the seven cities, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was appointed to lead an expedition to conquer the area. That expedition, gathered at Compostela for Mendoza's review in February 1540, included 1,000 men, 1,500 horses and mules, and cattle and sheep for the expedition commissary. Two vessels under command of Hernado de Alarcón were sent up the coast to support the land forces.

Coronado's exploration of modern New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma in 1541--80 years before the Pilgrim's landed in Plymouth--brings to a full circle Spain's attempt to find the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado's expedition ended near modern Wichita, Kansas without finding any of the seven cities, but from A.D. 711 to A.D. 1541 - 840 years of time - the quest for the Seven Cities of Gold captured the imaginations of the Portuguese and Spanish explorers and conquistadors.

Though some would have you believe the Roman Catholic Church came to the new world to "convert the pagans to the Christian faith," the literal truth is the hunt for gold drove the explorations west.

The Apostle Peter once said, "Silver and gold have I none," but it wasn't long before the church built by Christ on the rock of Peter couldn't say that anymore. The "love of money" led to the Seven Fabled Cities of God, and from that love of money came:

1. The subjugation, enslavement and death of hundreds of thousands native American peoples.
2. The pillaging and plundering of foreign lands and resources for personal gain.
3. Wars and battles between "Christian" forces and "pagan" forces instead of peace.

It would seem to me that much of the East vs. West and Islam vs. Christianity conflict over the past 1,500 years is simply fulfillment of the warning "the love of money is the root of all evil."

It seems not just an axiom for a personal life; it is an eternal truth for the nations.

America's Problem Is One of Culture, Not Race

© Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News
Any American who watches videos of a police officers shooting someone being placed under arrest is sickened. Likewise, any American who hears the news of five police officers being killed in cold blood during a racial rally in Dallas is sickened. We have a problem in America.

But that problem is not a racial one.

Racial problems in America occurred decades ago. Years ago people of color couldn't play sports with whites. Today America's biggest sports icons are people of color - just ask fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Years ago it was illegal for people of different races to marry in America. Today many marriages, not just a few, are mixed-race marriages. It used to be different races in America didn't worship together. Today, our churches are often more integrated than not. Last Wednesday night at Emmanuel we heard a wonderful Bible study, taught by one of our pastors. He's a man of color, but that doesn't even enter our minds. We don't have a racial problem in America. A black man holds the highest office in the land. Decades ago this would have been unthinkable. We are all human beings, created in God's image, and we are all people of color; some of us just have less pigment than our brothers. We don't have a racial problem.

We have a culture problem.

This culture problem transcends race. It affects all Americans, regardless of color, gender or socio-economic status. Culture is defined as "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively." The problem in our country is that most Americans can't even understand the definition of culture, much less contribute to its display.

We have become an ignorant people. We are collectively ignorant of world history. We know our favorite sports teams, but we can't tell you about ancient Athens or Rome. We are collectively ignorant of classical literature. When most Americans hear the word Homer they think Homer Simpson instead of the first published poet of western civilization. We are clueless about world geography. We think the world revolves around America because we haven't seen the world. Most Americans are ignorant of the Bible. We'd rather play video games and watch our favorite game than spend an hour reading the Scriptures.

We have a culture problem.

When Abraham Lincoln miraculously became the President of the United States, there was a real, not imaginary, racial divide in our nation. Ironically, people considered Lincoln, the man who would eventually end American slavery, an ignorant backwoodsman. He was - at least by the standards of his day. Lincoln had no formal education. He lived on the frontier. He spent more time chopping wood than he did in class. Yet, at night, Lincoln read by candlelight. He read Aesop and Shakespeare. He studied geometry by reading Euclid. He memorized poetry. His favorite book to read was the Bible. As a young man, Lincoln taught himself Law by reading Blackstone's Commentaries on the Law, and he eventually become an auto-didactic lawyer in Springfield, Illinois.

Lincoln led our nation through our darkest hour because he was a man of culture.

He believed in honesty which meant his word was his bond. He treated other people with respect because he devoured the teachings of Jesus, and considered every human being a valuable person created in the image of God. He understand world history and therefore never took his place in history too seriously. He was self-deprecating and took very little offense at what others said of him. Yet because knew his own soul was damaged by laughing at others, he avoided scorn. Lincoln would rather be quiet and learn than be asked to speak and teach. He crafted his words succinctly (think Gettysburg) and thus every word bore potency.

Lincoln was a man of culture.

Culture is not obtained through the bestowal of educational degrees. Abraham Lincoln had no formal education. Culture is inner character characterized by personal humility and life-long learning. Culture is collectively displayed in a nation where citizens consider each other more important than themselves and eagerly listen and learn from what others have to teach.  During our nation's darkest hour, we overcame because people--regardless of color--had culture.

We've lost culture in America.

When culture is lost in a nation, people become ignorant, self-absorbed, and hostile. The loss of culture is a little like the loss of red-blood cells in the human body. When red blood cells disappear, the body turns on itself and dies from within.

Our nation is dying.

Thank God that He is in the business of raising the dead.

Keeping Clear the Memory Holes of Our Past

It's our custom on long car drives to listen to audio books on history. Recently Rachelle and I drove back to Enid from Florida and listened to the 12 hour audio book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. The New York Times named this book one of the ten best books of the year (2006) and it became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History.

Rarely have I enjoyed an audio book more than this one. Tidbits of information about the Pilgrims and their journey to the New World came fast and furious. One particular piece of information fascinated me.

Edward Winslow (1595 - 1655) was one of the original 102 passengers on the Mayflower and a leader of the English Pilgrims who landed on the shores of America on November 11, 1620. Winslow would serve as the governor of Plymouth Colony in 1633, 1636 and then again in 1644.  In 1624, not yet four years after the Pilgrims came to America, Winslow wrote an account of the early years. His book,  Good Newes from New England, or a True Relation of Things very Remarkable at the Plantation of Plimouth in New England, is not only primary source material about the Pilgrims, it details many customs and traditions of the Native Americans (Indians).

By the year 1624 Winslow had become a close friend of Chief Massasoit and his Pokanet Indian tribe, the people most historians credit with helping to save the Pilgrims from starvation during that first cold winter of 1620/1621. Winslow recounts taking a long walk on an Indian trail with a Pokanet Indian and learning for the first time how Pokanets preserved their history for posterity through memory holes. Winslow wrote:
Instead of records and chronicles, they take this course, where any remarkable act is done, in memory of it, either in the place, or by some pathway near adjoining, they make a round hole in the ground about a foot deep, and as much over, which when others passing by behold, they inquire the cause and occasion of the same, which being once known, they are careful to acquaint all men, as occasion serveth therewith. And least such holes should be filled, or grown up by any accident, as men pass by they will oft renew the same: by which means many things of great antiquity are fresh in memory. So that as a man travelleth, if he can understand his guide, his journey will be the less tedious, by reason of the many historical discourses will be related unto him.
Using these memory holes the Pokanets shared important events in their history with their children and grandchildren as they walked, telling tribal stories and passing down their heritage as they paused to keep the memory holes clean from overgrown brush. The Pokanet Indians seemed to have understood the importance of preserving past in order to maintain the cultural cohesiveness and intellectual unity of their people.
Could it be that one of the reasons our nation seems to be falling apart at the seams is because we have refused to keep clear and clean the memory holes of our past as a nation? As Independence Day 2016 approaches, I think God that my parents and educators instilled within me a love for America's forefathers and our nation's heritage.

"A nation's posterity knows prosperity only when the nation's principles held dear are made clear and the nation's past is made fast." W.Wade Burleson