The true story of the first Thanksgiving

“On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible,” and this is what’s not taught. This is what’s left out. “The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims — including Bradford’s own wife — died of either starvation, sickness, or exposure.

“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.” They were collectivists! Now, “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.

“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. … Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!  But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years — trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it — the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson,” every kid gets. “If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.” Here’s what he wrote: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing — as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.

“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” That was thought injustice. “Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?” ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. … So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.

“The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'”


love your enemies

Jesus said, straight up, “love your enemies.” Even people who don’t know much about the Bible are aware of this statement, “love your enemies.” But, how in the world do we do that? Why in the world do we do that? Because that is what God does every single day. Every day God gives that gift to everyone. Causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine and His love to pour out on every one. Every day. God just loves.

This is the broader context of Jesus words. “You have heard that it was said….”  “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” “But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in Heaven because he causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good every day. Everybody gets God’s gift of the sun. And he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matthew 5:43-47)

Now I don’t know about you… but this is not the way I work. I can love my friends, I can love my neighbor, I can love my family. But if somebody hurts me…..I have trouble there.  If somebody hurts someone I love? I have trouble there. If someone I love is getting hurt I have a hard time not telling them to hurt that person back.

Have you ever had that middle of the night confrontation – not with the actual person but in your head you imagine what it would feel like to let them have it… to make them pay, to hurt them like they hurt you? Sure you have. Does that make you love them more?

A study was done asking what is the #1 factor in determining whether or not I will like another person. (Physical attractiveness, IQ, common interests, personality type, etc?) Anybody want to guess?  It’s whether or not they like me.  If they like me, I will like them.

Something else that is just about as revealing. Anyone want to guess what’s the #1 factor that determines if you will not like somebody? If they don’t like you.

God is not like that. He doesn’t love that way.  This is where it is so hard for us to understand God because we project all of our stuff on Him. God just loves people. He loves people that love Him. He loves people that don’t love Him. He loves people that worship him and people that spit in His eye. He loves people that praise him and people that ignore him. He just loves people who don’t believe he exists or are actively trying to prove he doesn’t exist. He just loves them.

And he doesn’t do it because he has to. He does it because it is the only way to be that has life to it. And Jesus says “I will be with you, and I will help you because you can’t do this yourself.” But you can start doing that. There’s not a whole lot of rules that will guide you. Every situation will take some creativity and so you have to pray. That is why he says “Love your enemy and pray.” Because that’s generally the next step: “God, I don’t even know what to do!” You can find some confidential and trusted friends who will help you think this through, and give wise advice. And you will be strong and creative.

What are you waiting for? You already have the person in your mind that you need to love like God loves. Just do it!

(The entire message on Sunday, November 21, 2010, at New Venture Christian Church, will be devoted to “love your neighbor.” After November 21, the audio version is available at this site,under the title “You’ve Got To Be Kidding.”)

the harvest needs workers

Jesus pleaded, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest , therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  (Matt 9:37, 38)
Here is a little piece of the picture of just how desperately workers are needed.

  • Each year 3,500 churches in America close their doors.
  • Of the 61 million people living in France, less than 1% are evangelical Christians.
  • There are only enough church plants to keep up with 1/8 of the U.S. population growth.
  • Every month, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry
  • In Africa, 14 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
  • Of the 6500 languages in the world, 4,400 have NO portion of Scripture translated.
  • If 1,000 Chinese were baptized daily, it would take 3,087 years to baptize the whole nation.
  • The United States remains the fourth largest mission field in the world.
  • While there are 3,100 Christian missionaries in Brazil, there are 420,000 spiritist mediums.
  • Only 21% of Americans attend religious services every week.
  • Of the 16,000 people groups in the world, 6,600 are unreached with the gospel.
  • Every minute, 62 people around the world die without Christ.
  • Indiana has one Christian Church for every 10,000 people. To reach that ratio in New York City alone, 2,000 new churches would need to be planted.
  • With 3 billion unreached people worldwide, each current U.S. Bible college student would need to tell 1 million people apiece so all could hear the gospel.

Would you pray…

…specifically for someone you know who might enter into Christian ministry?

…for God to reveal someone to you to pray for if you do not know someone personally who might enter Christian ministry?

…that God would reveal to you if you might be the person he is leading to Christian Ministry?

Pray like never before for workers for the harvest.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament

This is another one of those theological subjects. It’s a long one so hang on.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is first mentioned by John the Baptist in Matt 3:11 and also recorded in the other three gospels.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
(Also Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33)

The question is, exactly what was Jesus referring to? What would the baptism of the Holy Spirit look like? Who and how would it be experienced? There are endless beliefs and countless theological explanations as to exactly what this prophecy means.

When it comes to prophecy, the way to understand the meaning of a prophecy is found in its fulfillment. How is a particular prophecy fulfilled in history? How did this prophecy play itself out in history? That is always the best way to discern what a particular prediction means rather than trying to guess or predetermine what God might be saying.

The next time this particular prophecy is mentioned is just before Jesus ascends back to heaven and is giving his followers His final instructions

Acts 1:4-5 “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Which his followers did, and God acted just as he had promised. A few days later the baptism of the Holy Spirit was experienced for the very first time.

Acts 2:1-4 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Why did this happen? What was the meaning of it all? Why would God pour out His Spirit in this way?

The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit can be summarized by Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophecy when he explains in Verse 17.  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

A deeper examination of the wording reveals that all people means all people groups of the world. The kingdom of God is no longer for just the chosen nation of Israel. It is for everyone and this miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a demonstration of God’s power to validate that message, that truth and that expansion of God’s Kingdom plan.

Meanwhile, the result of Peter’s message that followed was that 3000 accepted this first gospel message and were baptized into the family of God. All 3000 of these first converts, thought, were of Jewish heritage that had assembled in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.

For the next few years, with a few exceptions, the work of the apostles and church leaders was confined to those of Jewish heritage. Even though the kingdom had been open to “all people” the church and church leadership was slow to get the message. It was still focusing on the house of Israel.

Then comes the household of Cornelius (Acts 10). Cornelius was a Gentile who was an extremely good and God fearing man but not a Christ follower. He didn’t even know there was a Christ. So, in a miraculous way, by means of a sheet, God revealed to Peter that Gentiles were also to be included in the evangelistic plans of the church and the Kingdom. As a result of his dream from God, Peter surrenders to the message of the sheet and travels to the house of Cornelius. Upon arriving he reveals that he finally gets what God is saying.

Acts 10:34-35 “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

Then it happened again. Acts 10:44-46 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

The “circumcised believers” i.e. Jewish believers, still had a difficult time accepting the outpouring of God on the Gentiles but who were they to argue with God. They also relented and baptized them in the name a Jesus and welcomed them into the church also.

When word spread throughout Judea that Gentiles had also been accepted into the kingdom, Peter headed to Jerusalem to explain what had happened, to the church leaders there.

He summed up the experience by saying, Acts 11:15-17 “As I began to speak, (Referring to the Cornelius incident.) The Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

His explanation reveals;

1. That what happened here is the same thing that happened at “the beginning.” The beginning of what? The beginning of the church. (Acts 2)
2. What happened here is also the fulfillment of the original prophecy relating to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Joel’s prophecy)
3. God has declared unmistakable that the kingdom of God is open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

From the baptism of the Holy Spirit event at the household of Cornelius we have about eighty more years of biblical writings in the New Testament. In none of the New Testament writings, from this time forward, do we find the baptism of the Holy Spirit ever mentioned again. Why not, if it were to be something every single individual was to experience? Or is that really its purpose in God’s plan?

Going back to the original thought, the way to understand the meaning of prophecy is through its fulfillment. In God’s plan, as revealed in the New Testament, the baptism of the Holy Spirit seems to have had a temporary purpose and once it fulfilled its purpose, faded from the scene. That purpose being, to clearly declare that the kingdom is open to “all people” (Jews and Gentiles) revealed through both Jews and Gentiles experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the baptism of the Holy Spirit fell on both people groups.

Then it vanished from Biblical history. Mission accomplished!

can the Bible be trusted?

An ongoing debate concerning the Bible is the issue of whether or not its message is reliable and credible. Skeptics and unbelievers assert that the message of the Bible has changed over the years and the manuscript evidence to support an unchanging message is just too weak. I would invite you to entertain the idea that the exact opposite might be true.

The following is a chart showing several ancient writings, the date written,  the date of the earliest copy currently in existence,  the time span between the date written and the oldest copy in existence and the number of manuscripts on that writing currently in existence. The second part of the chart applies the same evidence to various books and complete sets of the New Testament.

Author Date Written Earliest Copy Time Span Copies (extent)
Secular Manuscripts:
Herodotus (History) 480 – 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8
Thucydides (History) 460 – 400 BC 900 AD 1,300 years ?
Aristotle (Philosopher) 384 – 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 5
Caesar (History) 100 – 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10
Pliny (History) 61 – 113 AD 850 AD 750 years 7
Suetonius (Roman History) 70 – 140 AD 950 AD 800 years ?
Tacitus (Greek History) 100 AD 1,100 AD 1,000 years 20
Biblical Manuscripts: (note: these are individual manuscripts)
Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26) 1st century 50-60 AD co-existant (?)  
John Rylands (John) 90 AD 130 AD 40 years  
Bodmer Papyrus II (John) 90 AD 150-200 AD 60-110 years  
Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.) 1st century 200 AD 150 years  
Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels) 1st century 200 AD 150 years  
Codex Vaticanus (Bible) 1st century 325-350 AD 275-300 years  
Codex Sinaiticus (Bible) 1st century 350 AD 300 years  
Codex Alexandrinus (Bible) 1st century 400 AD 350 years  

When all manuscripts are included the following evidence exists for the New Testament.

Total New Testament manuscripts = 5,300 Greek MSS, 10,000 Latin Vulgates, 9,300 others = 24,000 copies
230 of those manuscripts were written prior to 600AD.

The conclusion of the matter is that the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, is the most heavily documented historical document in existence today. There is more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient writing.

What that means in practical terms is that you can believe in the message of the Bible as authentic and unchanging. It has not been altered, manipulated, or corrupted over the years. The preponderance of manuscript evidence has served as a checks and balances to prevent that very thing from happening.

 So I would invite you to explore its content more often, knowing that as you do you are reading the true and inspired message of the living God to mankind.