Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reading: America the Last Best Hope

In the second year of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln, faced with the monumental challenge of a nation divided and at war with itself, took a daring stance and issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In announcing this bold step in his second annual message to Congress on December 1st, 1862, he offered these thoughts:

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."

The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, concluded what we call "the love chapter," by stating that only three things in this life carry into the next: faith, hope, and love. As Christians we understand that our hope ultimately rests in Christ and Christ alone. And yet we cannot deny that the promise of America has been a beacon of hope to millions throughout the years.

Who among us has not been stirred by the words of Jewish poetess, Emma Lazarus, engraved on Lady Liberty's pedestal?

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

William J. Bennett, in America, the Last Best Hope, has penned a marvelous recounting of American history from 1492 to the eve of the First World War. I just completed it.

I found it to be an immensely readable book. It's a tome really, at 525 pages. But it is not at all laborious to read. In fact, as a lover of history, I found it to be absolutely pleasurable.

Bennett explains his motive for writing the book. "... I write this story to kindle romance, to encourage Americans to fall in love with this country, again, or for the first time."

I strongly encourage anyone who may feel as though they wished they had paid more attention in history class to get this book and invest the time required to feed from its pages. It will surely be time well spent.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sleepwalking into Oblivion

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Bob Mumford, once said "The gods of this age are personal peace and prosperity."

The god of prosperity is relatively easy to identify. We find this idol in our larger than needed homes, our late model SUVs, Lexus's, and Mercedes Benz's, our iPods, our new HDTV setups, and (insert your favorite materialistic toy here).

But what is meant by the "god" of personal peace? Recently, Mumford began to recast this idol as the god of "undisturbed." In other words, "I don't want to be bothered."

In simple terms, we Americans are often guilty of saying, "Give me my stuff and leave me alone."

As comforting as material blessing and living our lives without conviction or responsibility may appear to be, the collective end will be national and cultural oblivion.

To step into oblivion is to forget, to practice indifference, to neglect history, to make void the legacy of our forefathers, to disappear from the scene.

I mourn that the generations coming up behind us have very minimal connection with our nation's great story. I ache for my children and grandchildren to know the America I knew as a child, the America I read about and learned about and sang about in school.

It wan't perfect, but it was far better than anything else going on in this world. And it still is.

I anguish over lost civility.

Our culture has lost much of its salt. There is little remaining to keep it from spoiling, from perishing.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." Proverbs 29:18

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6

What a horrific thought: that God would forget our children!

Let us remember and obey the law of the Lord, His Word, His lifegiving, sustaining Word.