HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 5

Santa Claus portrayed by children’s television producer Jonathan Meath (from here)

This is the fifth part of my take on the results of the Virginia’s General Election (November 7, 2017). Here are the four previous posts.

What is the subject of today’s post? Well, this is a continuation of Part 4.

What are America’s traditional values? How do America’s values differ today?

In the last post we looked at the connection between Christian Revival and Thanksgiving Day. Here we will look at what has become our nation’s biggest holiday, Christmas.

Consider that we still live in what is for the most part still a free society, but when we look around the world and review America’s past we can see that free societies remain rare.  We can see there is no easy way for a people to free themselves. We can also see that increasing numbers of Americans do not understand what it takes to remain free.

What is the problem? Increasing numbers of Americans have adopted paganism. For example, instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas, many celebrate Santa Claus.

Deuteronomy 5:8-10 New King James Version (NKJV)

‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

An idol is anything we put before God. These days we don’t worship carvings of wood or stone. Neither do we cast metal figures and kneel before them. Even for our ancestors such things were only representations of something they thought divine. Today we more directly worship sexual pleasure, the stuff we make, the state, and/or our self. When our children see us doing that, they copy us, and so they reap what we have sown.

Let’s work backwards in time from today. With respect to the gods we worship today today, let us consider the characteristics of today’s America with the America of May 29, 1790, when the last of the thirteen colonies ratified the Constitution.

Sex

Today’s America: We have saturated our culture with sex. We use sex in advertising, and we sell sex, especially in the form of pornography.

The result? Perversion. We abort over a million babies every year. To describe all the relationships that society now considers acceptable, we need an increasingly long string of letters (See Pride: Our Guide To All Things LGBTQIAPK.).

America of 1790: The Americans of 1790 adhered to the family structure our Lord wanted us to have.

Genesis 2:21-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Joseph and Mary exemplify type of family Adam and Eve formed before they sinned. So if we want to go to the Bible to find out what a family should look like, the early portions of Matthew and Luke provide a good place to start.

Stuff

Today’s America:  We have a consumer driven economy because we are obsessed with having things and looking good. Hence the Santa Claus cult is big in America because advertisers have discovered that they can use Santa to encourage parents to buy lots of stuff for their children. The figure we most associate with the original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, would have frowned upon going into debt just to buy Christmas presents.

Because we define success based upon the stuff we have, we educate our children in secular public schools where the emphasis is on learning what is needed to get a job that pays well.

America of 1790: The Bible condemns the love of money, not money itself. Therefore, it is possible to be well-to-do, as the Americans of 1790 were, and still serve God. Thus, more so than is true today the Americans of 1790 sought money for the good they could do with it.

Matthew 6:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

In 1790, family, friends, and neighbors focused on making certain children learned how to be good Christians. They believed that knowledge without virtue was worst than useless. If they celebrated Christmas, they were far more likely to celebrate Jesus than Santa Claus.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 (from here)

State

Today’s America: Today we have a Iargely urban population composed of individual, socially isolated families.

America of 1790:  Largely rural population composed of families working together in small communities.

Admittedly, when I say that today’s American families are more socially isolated (from each other), I can’t prove that assertion. All I can do is ask people to reflect upon their own experience and wonder how it must have been in 1790. Therefore, we begin here with an unproven assumption.  Yet consider how desperately lonely some people become on Christmas (See Christmas Depression.). Instead of remembering that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, too many of us invest our hearts in the empty glories of materialism.

Why do American families tend to be so isolated from each other today? Is the difference between today’s America and the America of 1790 about the shift towards urbanization? Should we blame technology? Probably not.

Consider what idol worship involves. When we worship an idol, we give our hearts to our god in exchange for what our god promises to give us. The nature of this exchange is most obvious with respect to the worship of the state. In return for our votes and our political donations, scheming politicians have promised us some sort of Utopia. So instead of voluntarily working with people in our church and members of our community, we hand tax dollars (preferably other people’s tax dollars) over to politicians in expectation of the marvelous results promised us. Of course, the results never come close to matching what was promised. Unfortunately, when we lose confidence in our true Lord, we become susceptible to the blandishments of lying politicians.

Matthew 22:15-22 New King James Version (NKJV)

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

What belongs to Caesar? Why did Jesus ask whose image was on the coin? What Jesus wanted His hearers to understand is that we each belong to God. Because we are made in the image of God, God’s image is on each of us.

Because of the birth of Jesus — because each of us must become perfect like Him — we know this is true.

John 14:8-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Self

Today’s America: Increasingly secularized.

America of 1790: Largely Christian.

Every man worships something or someone. Who or what do the secularized worship? When we recognize the existence of a Creator, then we logically must assume that Creation is about the Creator. However, if the universe just happened, then each of us can choose to make our existence all about “me” and what “I” want.

The term we typically associate with someone who worships himself is narcissism, and that diagnosis of narcissism is no doubt substantially accurate. Nonetheless, most of us are guilty of self-worship to at least some degree, and most of us don’t make an obvious display of narcissism. Still, when we worship our self, we put our own desires foremost. We set aside whatever God wants of us, and we tend disregard the needs of our neighbors.

When we love God, because we love Him above all else we obey His commands. That requires that we set aside our pride. That requires humility.

Consider the difference in attitudes towards Christmas. For the secular Christmas is just a hugely successful commercial holiday that celebrates buying things. In 1790 most Americans understood that Easter has far more significance. When He died on the cross, Jesus redeemed us. When He rose from the dead, He gave us proof He had redeemed us.

So why is Christmas important?

Philippians 2:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

From the beginning of His life to His resurrection, Jesus gave us an example of humility, an example of how to serve Our Lord and each other. What we believe about God determines what we consider important and how we live our lives. If we believe in Jesus, then we believe in loving God above all else and our neighbor as we love our self.

Conclusion

How does one love God? How does one turn to God to worship Him and keep His commandments? Even if the Bible did not exist we would know. All Creation speaks of the Creator. In each our hearts our Creator has given us knowledge of right and wrong. We each grow up knowing how to love and care for another. We each have a hole in our heart that only God can fill.

Fortunately, the Bible does exist. Arguably, the Bible is the most important book ever written, but most Americans have never studied the Bible. Even though most homes have a copy of the Bible, we have effectively lost the book. Thus, many who call themselves Christian are only cultural Christians. Not firmly rooted in Christian beliefs to start with, increasing numbers claim no religious affiliation.

If we want to call ourselves Christians, then we need to read and study the Bible. Since the Bible says certain behaviors are good and certain behaviors are evil, neither can we refuse to do what the Bible says to do nor can we do what the Bible says not to do and still be obedient to God.

In addition, if we want to understand what made America such a wonderful and unique place, we need to read and study the Bible. We need to understand what the people who left this land to us as their legacy believed.

To Be Continued

  • What does a revival involve? What does the Old Testament suggest?
  • What does a revival involve? What does the New Testament suggest?
  • What is necessary for a revival today?

 

4 thoughts on “HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 5

  1. Great post Tom, I was going to use the word ‘pinnacle’ to describe your post content.

    However, I decided you need one more aspect to consider. That being is what also was reported in the Bible to have happened in the past to societies that turned to worship idols.

    Not to instill a fear aspect, but just a needed reminder of the wisdom in the Bible recorded of what has happened in the past to every nation in history that turned to idol worship. Not only statue idols, but secular philosophies based on the premise that man is an equal to God.

    In the USA, we already have experienced a Civil War that is some ways has never really proven anything other than ‘might makes right.’ (The idea associated with the phrase connotes that a society’s view of right and wrong is determined, like its perspective on history, by those currently in power.)

    If interested, read this link which describes what happened in the past and compare King Solomon as a prime example of a person in history who changed from worship of his God to worship idols. In my opinion, he was wise enough in later life to recognize his folly when he later wrote his observations with these two versus in his Ecclesiastes.

    Nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

    What will men do who is to come after the King? What men have already done. (Ecclesiastes 2:12)

    http://blogs.elon.edu/rel2111703/2017/04/09/king-solomon-and-idol-worship/

    Compare the previous outcome to what we read and hear of current news. One really has to wonder if what is happening in the USA will result in time and become another repeat performance nation or society that became divided over time.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent assessment, Tom! And a challenging one as well… so important for each of us to examine our hearts to see if God is foremost there…as you suggest in your post, revival comes when we consider this… looking forward to reading your thoughts in this regard in your upcoming posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marvelous Tom—and good for all of us to remind ourselves of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed….it isn’t looking pretty.
    Emptying self, making room for God in a world that is so busy filling up…I was on that same wave length or actually I’ve been on this same wave length for a couple of weeks now—God is speaking Tom, I pray we will all start listening…

    Liked by 1 person

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